The historic “Cane to Cattail” hike from Cane River to Cattail peak continues in the second of our 3-part series. Today, we go deeper into the hike that begins at highway 197 in Pensacola Community, Yancey County, NC. Along with State Parks and US Forest Service, this area brings promise for conservation, sustainability, tourism and jobs for the area. There are few places on earth so beautiful that have grown from former mining and timbering activity. With continued care using the disciplines of forestry, biology, botany and wildlife management, this area has a place of national prominence.
Storytelling is integral to mountain heritage and culture. Part of understanding the magnitude of this hike is understanding how the surrounding area came to be. It starts with a man named Elisah Mitchell, a geologist, who observed a peak in the Black Mountains he thought was higher than Grandfather Mountain. He was trying to prove that this peak, soon-to-be called Mount Mitchell, had a higher elevation.
The story goes that Elisah Mitchell didn’t care for the woods at night. Unfortunately, he stayed out too late measuring Mt. Mitchell and in walking back in the dark, he fell to his death down Mitchell Falls. A man by the name of “Big Tom Wilson” was sent to find him and tracked his steps, finding ones that got shorter and shorter signifying Mitchell’s inability to see in front of him. Big Tom Wilson found his body at the foot of the falls.
Although the project claimed his life, Mitchell proved the height of Mt. Mitchell was even taller than Mount Washington in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.
It has been a long time since Cattail Peak and Cane River had one owner. Now, Conservationist of the Year Tim Sweeney owns the contiguous land to protect wildlife corridors. This means for the first time ever that we know of, we are the only ones to march from the river to the peak. Our hike was divided into 3 parts:
- Cane River to Bear Wallow Knob
- Bear Wallow to Ogle Rock
- Ogle Rock to Cattail Peak
Next: The Summit, The Legacy