The North Carolina Nature Conservancy is offering guided Hickory Nut Gorge hikes this summer and fall. Hikers can explore the Conservancy’s Bat Cave Preserve, the site of the longest augen gneiss fissure cave in the world and home to a number of interesting plants and animals. Hikes are scheduled for May 29, June 26, July 31, August 28, September 25 and October 23.
Hikers get a rare chance to explore the unique area with an expert. A mature cove hardwood forest covers the rocky middle and lower slopes of the gorge, and Carolina hemlock and chestnut oak forest dominate the cliff tops and ridgeline. The cove forests harbor a number of threatened or endangered plants. The rare and vibrantly colored cerulean warbler also inhabits the preserve’s cove forest and two rare salamander species are found here as well.
Although in past years, hikers have been led inside the cave entrance, the entrance is closed this year due to ongoing concerns about white nose syndrome, a disease that has ravaged northeastern bat populations and has recently been found in North Carolina. A Conservancy representative will talk about what the organization is doing to address this issue and hikers can view the cave entrance from the trail.
The hike is two miles, with parts that are fairly steep and strenuous. The hike takes approximately two to two and a half hours. It is not recommended for hikers with knee injuries, heart trouble or breathing difficulties.
Hikes will be led by former Nature Conservancy employee Beth Bockoven, who is intimately familiar with the Hickory Nut Gorge/Bat Cave area. To make a reservation or ask questions, contact Bockoven at email@example.com or 828-290-9217.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.