By Jesse Wood
The Carolina Climbers Coalition recently announced some big news. The nonprofit has entered a contract to purchase the 55-acre Buckeye Knob property and obtained a permanent easement for accessing the lower Barn Boulders in Western Watauga.
The area is one of the local, secret climbing holes in the High Country, which has seen many great climbing spots like Mildred’s Boulders, Hound Ears and Howard’s Knob close because of development over the past few decades.
Since March, the Carolina Climbers Coalition has been working on securing this property, according to CCC President Brian Payst. When the property recently sold to Highland Forest and Timber, local climbing legend Joey Henson, who lives next to the Barn Boulders, talked to Highland Forest and Timber and then reached out to the Carolina Climbers Coalition.
“It was the right combination. The seller was a great guy who wanted to see this protected, too. He could have logged it. He owns a timber company, but he’d really rather see this property protected,” Payst said. “We were in a position to move quickly. It usually doesn’t happen this fast.”
This area has seen extensive, low-key climbing over the years, although it’s been privately owned. Payst said there was never any reason to take action to save the boulders until the land was recently sold.
The area is described as clusters of boulders spread out through the woods. About a 20-minute walk separates the upper and lower areas – the lower Barn Boulders, named after Joey’s barn-style home, and the upper boulders on the plateau of Buckeye Knob. There’s an estimated 180 boulders on the properties, including the easement section.
“This is actually amazingly enough, the first officially open climbing area in Watauga County,” Payst said.
Although there is plenty of…