Date: Saturday, December 1
Meet: Black Mtn. Savings Bank, 200 East State St.
Difficulty: Moderate, 4-miles
In the 1800s, the E.T. Clemmons Stagecoach Line ran a route from Morganton through Old Fort and up the mountain to Black Mountain, Swannanoa, and into Asheville on a road called the Western Turnpike. In 1880, once railroad tracks were laid up Old Fort mountain, the company’s last and largest coach, the Hattie Butner, was retired. The old roadbed that she traveled day after day, however, still exists and is steeped in history.
On Saturday, December 1st, the museum will host a moderate winter hike down this historic path, which was also used as a Native American trade route and later by General Rutherford as he moved into the Swannanoa Valley and further west burning Indian settlements.
The Swannanoa Creek and Tunnel Hike is part of the museum’s exhibition commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. A Civil War battle was held along this road, which closely parallels the Swannanoa Creek. Along the way, hikers will see the gravesites of two soldiers who lost their life during the battle.
During the heyday of the stagecoach, many houses sprung up nearby, especially because of its proximity to the creek. Ruins of some of the old home sites still remain.
Though passenger train service ceased in the mid-1900s, the trains still run up and down the mountain several times a day transporting coal east and wood chips west. Hikers often view trains on the nearby tracks, and during the hike there is a good view of the eastern end of the Swannanoa Tunnel, the longest of the seven tunnels constructed up the Old Fort railroad grade.
This 4-mile moderate hike is mostly downhill and starts at Swannanoa Gap near Ridgecrest. Though it follows the old stagecoach road, the road has deteriorated over the last century and is very rough and rocky in places. Hikers should come equipped with study hiking shoes and hiking poles for added stability.
Registration is required for this hike. Interested hikers can register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 828-669-9566. Cost is $20 for members or $30 for nonmembers. Hikers should meet in the parking lot of the Black Mountain Savings Bank at 200 East State Street in downtown Black Mountain at 9:30am and bring their lunch and plenty of water. As this is a winter hike, participants should dress for the vagaries of winter weather.