LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

BLACK MOUNTAIN – The Seven Sisters are getting even closer to a family reunion of an unbroken, scenic mountain chain.

The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, an Asheville-based land trust, recently purchased 123 acres permanently protecting the crest of Brushy Knob, one of the “Seven Sisters,” a string of mountain summits that straddle the Asheville watershed and Montreat Wilderness in eastern Buncombe County.

Brushy Knob, also known as Big Piney, is the third “Sister” in the chain. If counting from the southwest to the northeast, the family’s summit names are: Tomahawk Mountain, Little Piney (aka Stomping Knob), Brushy Knob, Forked Ridge Knob, Unnamed Peak, Little Slaty and Big Slaty (aka False Graybeard).

The “real” Graybeard Mountain is just to the north, but is not considered one of the sisters.

The conservation deal is significant, according to SAHC executive director Carl Silverstein, because the western flank of Brushy Knob is now land that will forever be part of the iconic, wilderness-like landscape, and forever protected from housing or other development.

“Its eastern slopes are already protected by a conservation easement that we have held since 2004 on the 2,450-acre Montreat wilderness,” Silverstein said.

RELATED: Leicester man arrested in SAHC illegal logging case

Brushy Knob is one of a tight cluster of peaks — they are strung together over a few miles — that are officially named the Middle Mountains on U.S. Geological Survey maps, since they lie midway between the Craggy and the Blue Ridge mountains.

But they are more commonly known as the Seven Sisters, forming a prominent, beloved part of the view from the town of Black Mountain, the Craggy Mountains and Swannanoa area east of Asheville.

The Seven Sisters aren't protected

While many hikers as well as passersby in Black Mountain enjoy the view of the seven peaks, they are not all protected from development, said Joe Standaert, hiking leader for the Swannanoa Valley Museum, which interprets the history of the area and leads hikes along the peaks year-round.

While the Montreat Conservation Easement and the Asheville Watershed protect much of the Seven Sisters’ peaks, hundreds of acres from Tomahawk Mountain to Little Piney are privately owned by Camp Merrimac and the Billy Graham Estate, Standaert said.

RELATED: Green River Game Land, mountain bike trails grow in Polk County

The newly purchased Brushy Knob preserve encompasses forested slopes, rock outcroppings and the 4,160-foot summit of Brushy Knob, nestled in a network of vast protected areas of the Asheville Watershed and Montreat Wilderness, which SAHC began protecting in 1998.

It contains multiple headwater tributaries and more than a half-mile of Walker Branch, which flows into the North Fork of the Swannanoa River. It adjoins hundreds of thousands of acres of contiguous, protected land in the Black Mountains that includes the Asheville Watershed, Pisgah National Forest, Mount Mitchell State Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

SAHC bought the land for $400,000 in a bargain sale, without the use of any public funds, Silverstein said.

“The purchase was made possible by a generous donation from Brad and Shelli Stanback and several generous SAHC members who have asked to remain anonymous,” Silverstein said.

RELATED: Constitutional amendment: Are hunting and fishing threatened in North Carolina?

“The former landowners. Jim and Marcia Verbrugge made a significant contribution of land value. They sold the property to SAHC for less than half its appraised value. They also made a major gift for the transaction costs and long-term stewardship of the new preserve. We are deeply grateful to Jim and Marcia for being so committed to seeing their land protected forever.”

The Verbrugges, who live outside of Atlanta, said they wanted to make sure the land was preserved for the enjoyment of future generations.

“We love the beauty of the steep slopes, the unique rock formations, the lovely stands of a variety of old trees, and the quiet of the forest at higher altitudes,” they said in a statement.

SAHC plans to own and manage this property for the long term as a nature preserve to protect important biological and ecological areas, including a portion of the Audubon Society’s Black and Great Craggy Mountain Important Bird Area.

While there are more than 20 trails in the Montreat Wilderness covering more than 40 miles, the SAHC doesn’t have immediate plans to build a public access point to Brushy Knob. The group will hold a public hike in the area, however, on Nov. 10.

The strenuous hike will begin by ascending the Graybeard Trail via switchbacks from the old Mount Mitchell narrow-gauge railroad bed from the 1920s, and descend the West Ridge Trail along the Seven Sisters with views of the Asheville Watershed and Brushy Knob.

Want to see Brushy Knob?

The SAHC is holding a guided hike to celebrate the recent acquisition of the Brushy Knob Mountain property with an extremely strenuous, 8.5-mile hike over steep terrain. The hike starts at 9 a.m. Nov. 10 on the Graybeard Trail.

It will circle the outer rim of the Montreat Wilderness via switchbacks

It is free for SAHC members, $10 for non-members. For more information, visit www.Appalachian.org.

 

1777441002

 

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: https://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2018/11/06/brushy-knob-black-mountain-seven-sisters-permanently-protected-development/1890767002/