Outdoors Column

The trail was clear, although the terrain was rough

By Bill Howard | May 20, 2014
Photo by: File Bill Howard

The trail was clear, although the terrain was rough. Hills and rocks and slides were as much a part of the trail as asphalt is to a highway. Throughout the whole length, a short step too far would carry you over the edge which dropped hundreds of feet where the only thing to break the fall was the ground itself.
My wife, daughter and son were taking this treacherous route. Since the trail led to nowhere, I kept thinking to myself “this is why mountain climbers seek the pinnacle of a majestic outcropping of rock and earth made from eons of plates colliding with each other.”
We just wanted to see what lied ahead, remember what was behind us, and enjoy the present.
While making the trek, I caught a high-pitched rumble behind us. The noise gradually grew louder, and I motioned for my daughter and wife to stay close to the inside of the trail near the upward mountainside. Bears, bobcats and even a rumored mountain lion, though highly doubtful, are said to roam the area. This was no predator though.
In a flash three motorbikes broke around the curve and passed us. They were so quick all we could really catch sight of was three helmets and dust being thrown from the rear tires.
I had never been on the off-highway vehicle trail system that encompasses Brown Mountain, but on a weekend getaway we thought the family would enjoy running the four wheelers on a trail such as this. Over 33 miles of trail exists there, and even though there are plenty of bikes, all terrain vehicles, and Jeeps testing their skills and just enjoying the adrenaline rush of acceleration and maneuvering, the trails remained open enough where you were not constantly looking over your shoulder or peeking around the corners.
With the kids with us, we stayed on the easy trails. There are much more difficult tracks to take, and each trail marker has a symbol showing not only the difficulty of the run, but which types of vehicles are allowed to traverse the trail as well.
We spent several hours exploring just the main trail which was highlighted with turnoffs, steep climbs and descents, powdery dirt and exposed rocky outcrops. We stopped twice on the 12.6 mile ride, once for pictures near a large boulder, and once just to talk and take a five minute break.
The cool mountain air was crisp and refreshing compared to earlier in the week where the temps reached the lower 90’s and we soaked in all we could.
As far as the mountain goes, it is filled with mystery and history, and having both covered, seen, and studied the famous Brown Mountain Lights, I wondered just how they emanated from the mountain.
Even the United States Department of Agriculture acknowledges the floating orbs but the explanations are as much a mystery as the lights themselves. This being my first time actually on the mountain, I paid special attention to features that you just cannot see from afar during the night.
That evening, as we tended a fire near the small two room cabin we stayed in and melted s’mores over the flames; we recanted the tales of the mountain and others from the nearby area. We ate well, slept deeply, and continued a bond between ourselves and the land.
The Brown Mountain OHV Trail is located less than thirty minutes from Morganton and requires a pass that can be purchased at the entrance.