A couple of weeks ago we were fortunate to receive a donation of Bernard Elias material. Bernard was a photographer, filmmaker, world traveler, avid hiker, and a fierce advocate for nature conservation in the Southern Appalachian Mountains.  Bernard was born in 1918 and grew up in Biltmore Forest. His family home provided a great vantage point for him to take in the natural beauty of places like Mount Pisgah. Evidently taking in the scenery wasn’t enough. According to author and hiker, Danny Bernstein, at age 14 Bernard and a buddy had a real hankering to walk to the top of Mount Pisgah. Age, gear, and land access limitations be darned!

From Danny’s article published in the MountainXpress in 2006:

The boys didn’t have sleeping bags so they took army blankets, a pup tent and cans of food — there were no freeze-dried meals back then. They jumped the fence into Biltmore Estate — the place was not as heavily patrolled as it is now — and managed to get someone to row them across the French Broad River. From there (this was before the Blue Ridge Parkway, mind you), all they had to guide them was the Shut-In Trail, a route originally built by George Vanderbilt to get him from his estate to Buck Spring Lodge. The boys took two days to reach Mount Pisgah.

Now that’s pretty impressive in my book. It’s staggering to think of the effort it took to just get to a trailhead, much less hike the thing. Anyone hiking the area in the pre-Blue Ridge Parkway days had to REALLY want to hike.

Pack Memorial Library NC Room Collection: AB590 W.M. Cline


The young Elias survived his Mount Pisgah stint and went on to graduate from Duke University, be a Scoutmaster, work as a Navy photographer during WWII, and hold positions with Ecusta Paper Plant and Ball Photo.

Bernard Elias was the longest tenured member of the Carolina Mountain Club. He worked tirelessly to stop the Transmountain Railroad through the Smokies in the 1960s. His map The 100 Favorite Trails of the Great Smokies and Carolina Blue Ridge, first published in 1966, is highly regarded and still in demand today.

Here’s some publicity all the way from Indiana in 1989:

100 Favorite Trails


His knowledge of Southern Appalachian trails was much sought after within the community.

I got a good giggle out of this one:


He could also wear a hat with great panache.

Printed in MountainXpress May 2005: Photographer unknown

Bernard Elias


Post by Lyme Kedic

Special thanks to Danny Bernstein for her work in facilitating this donation.

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