Madison County Highpoint Trip Report

Sandymush Bald

Date: December 28, 2005
Author: Patrick Craft

This HP is really off the beaten path and vehicular access is circuitous from every direction. I did some web surfing and discovered an access route from the southeast. This route is west of the Sandymush community. The tract of land on both sides of Bald Fork is called Surritt Cove. It is accessed from NC 63 and owned by the Long Branch Environmental Education Center. The director is Paul Gallimore and the center owns more than 1,000 acres.

My 9 year-old son and I drove down from the Tri-Cities Tennessee area, down I-26 to US 25/70 at Weaverville, and eventually ended up on NC 63 near Leicester (pronounced lie-stire). Past the Sandymush community, we drove up Surritt Cove Road to its intersection with Randall Cove Road. Here the road goes from pavement to unimproved gravel (understatement). We went right on Surritt Cove Road, drove about a half mile to a guard-rail gate on the left and parked. This gate is the main access to the Education Centerís land. Be warned, you will need a map and compass or GPS and the skills to use them. (As I left my compass at home and dropped my map in the first 1/4 mile; I relied on my skills, or lack thereof.) I drew a map on the hike in and counted a total of 11 intersections on the hike up.

The jeep road follows Bald Creek for about 1 mile then veers off to the right. The road becomes a logging track that gets progressively more overgrown as you ascend. As I said, there are 11 trail intersections. At each one, I checked both ways to determine if it went up or down. Some turns were very difficult to ascertain. At some I placed arrows of stone or sticks to make certain we took the right track on the trip down. At about 4600 feet, the overgrown logging skid ended and we struck up the ridge. I cut swatches from a red bandana to flag our route. After about 100 yards we ran into a fence line (halfway fallen over) and ascended to the summit ridgeline. Up at the ridgeline there is a survey line and a jeep road. We went left (southwest) to the lower summit bald, back into woods along ridge to the summit; marked with a BM and blue survey tape. We returned by the same route.

A great hike, we missed the rain and could see Max Patch, Tennessee Bluff, Mount Sterling, and the Smokies ridgeline from Mount Guyot to Mount Cramerer. This route is only recommended if one is comfortable with route-finding and cross-country travel. A wrong turn and you'll end up in another cove but eventually end up on Surritt or Boyd Cove Road. Not recommended for summer as the briers would be thick on the upper logging skids.

To return to I-26 we went northwest of NC 63, onto CR 1001 (Meadowtown Road and curvey) to Marshall and NC 213 (fairly straight from being rebuilt) to Mars Hill and I-26.

If interested in this route contact Paul Gallimore at 828-683-3662. He would like to know what you observe on the hike.

It took about 5 miles round-trip with gain of 2,221 feet.