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On Saturday, Aug. 6, The Wilderness Society’s Southern Appalachian Office based in Sylva will host a guided hike in the Black Mountains Inventoried Roadless Area with Hugh Irwin, the society's landscape conservation planner.

Participants will meet at the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway in east Asheville at 8 a.m. to carpool to the trailhead (or they may meet  at the hike site at 9:30 a.m.). The 7.5-mile hike will be on difficult terrain. Hikers should wear sturdy walking boots, bring rain gear and sun protection, plenty of water, and pack a lunch. A walking stick is recommended.

The outing is free and open to all, but an RSVP is requested (email Michelle Ruigrok at michelle_ruigrok@tws.org.). Those who RSVP will receive additional details prior to the outing regarding the trail, meet-up location and carpooling.

Part of the South Toe River basin, the Black Mountain range has unique high-elevation communities including virgin spruce-fir forest at upper elevations that contain numerous rare species such as mountain paper birch, the Appalachian cottontail, and arctic bentgrass. Hikers will experience different types of old-growth forest along the trail loop.

The Black Mountain range is the highest and one of the most impressive and unique mountain massifs in the eastern United States, with Mount Mitchell at 6,684 feet above sea level and seven other peaks over 6,000 feet in elevation along the Black Mountain Ridge.

Irwin has spent more than three decades working on conservation issues in the Southern Appalachians. Before joining The Wilderness Society in 2011, he spent 16 years as conservation planner for the Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition, where he concentrated on documenting and analyzing the region's conservation values and priorities. His work  resulted in the publication of a study examining the future potential of the Southern Appalachian region: "Return the Great Forest: A Conservation Vision for the Southern Appalachian Region."

For more about The Wilderness Society, a leading American conservation organization working to protect the  nation’s shared wildlands, visit wilderness.org. For more about the Southern Appalachian office, visit ncmountaintreasures.org.

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