Wonder why smoke wafts from Watch Knob Mountain?

Staff reports

The Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center’s fifth Valley History Explorer Series hike on Saturday, Aug. 6 will visit the mysterious smoking Watch Knob Mountain in the Bee Tree community.

A picnic in Bee Tree long ago attests to the community spirit that held sway over residents there.

The Valley History Series’ second hike in Bee Tree, the first permanent settlement in western North Carolina, will venture to the mysterious smoking Watch Knob Mountain. While known to Native Americans as Swift Water, the community earned its present name from a massive oak tree.

One of the earliest settlers noticed the corn stockpiled in his corn crib slowly disappearing, according to legend. The farmer eventually discovered the culprits - a team of squirrels. He tracked them to an oak tree said to be so tall, he couldn’t see the top. Unable to shoot the squirrels from the towering haven, the farmer decided to chop the tree down. He assembled a crew of men and after several days, the men notched the last cut, revealing a hollow core entirely filled with corn. They filled 120 bushels.

Finally, the crew toppled the tree which fell over the creek, and honey poured from the cut, the legend asserts. People came from miles to fill buckets, pails, pots and pans with honey. Once everyone had their fill, the sticky liquid continued to flow into the creek until the water ran sweet as honey all the way to the river. The community decided Bee Tree Creek had a better ring to it than Corn Creek.

Hikers will hear more stories about this rural locale during the museum’s tour, which will probe the enigma of Watch Knob. Like the famed Brown Mountain Lights, theories abound of the origins of the smoke that is occasionally spotted wafting from this mountain.

The Valley History Explorer Series consists of seven hikes, each about three miles long, that revisit the past of the unique, small communities that comprise the Swannanoa Valley, including Riceville, Bee Tree, Swannanoa, North Fork, Montreat, Ridgecrest and Black Mountain.

The hikes, led by knowledgeable historians, natives with deep family ties and experienced hike leaders,  take participants on half-day journeys of discovery. The hikes reveal facts about Valley history and prompt new friendships while galvanizing community bonds.

As with the museum’s popular Rim Hike series, participants in the Valley History Explorer Series are encouraged to sign up for the entire series and will receive a punch card to track their progress. Most hikers complete the series over the course of two or more years.

Hikers in 2014 found beautiful weather in which to explore Watch Knob and Bee Tree.

The full series is available for $140 for members and $170 for nonmembers.​ Hike series finishers will be awarded a embroidered fleece during the museum’s annual hiking program celebration in December.

The sixth hike in the series, on Sept. 10, will explore historic sites along the Point Lookout Greenway in the Ridgecrest community. For more, visit swannanoavalleymuseum.org. Preregistration is required for all hikes. Email info@swannanoavalleymuseum.org or call 669-9566 to register.

Valley History Explorer Series Hike #5

Hike: Bee Tree’s Watch Knob

When: 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 6 

Meet: Black Mountain Savings Bank, 200 E. State St., Black Mountain

Difficulty: Moderate, 3 miles

Cost: $20 museum members, $30 nonmembers

Register: swannanoavalleymuseum.org, 669-9566