This year, I was able to drag along two friends with me, one who had never hiked backcountry in quite some time and one that had never hiked backcountry at all. I wanted a decent challenge for myself, a peak with views, a good taste of backcountry hiking for my friends and someplace completely new to me. After some researching, I finally decided on the Shining Rock Wilderness area with its famous peak, Cold Mountain. This area of the Blue Ridge Mountains has great views plus some reasonably high peaks for the area. The challenge was the unmarked trails and having to rely on maps, compass and my smart phone (yeah, not a wild stretch). The peak was obviously Cold Mountain, the Art Loeb trail would provide a wonderful up and down trail over balds on the way to the mountain and I had never visited this area at all, despite having heard plenty about it.
Our trip began on Wednesday evening, as I rocketed through Coats, NC to pick up Thomas, then a quick shuttle to Raleigh to pick up Mike and then heading out towards Asheville where we would crash that night right at the exit on the eastern side of Asheville next to the Blue Ridge Parkway. We learned all about Thomas’ problems, probably more than he intended to talk about, but he just kept on talking and talking (this is a recurring theme on this trip). Thursday morning, we got on the Blue Ridge Parkway
The trail got incredibly thin, although still very clear. The brush was thick and sharp and I have several scratches and rips on my pants. At one point, the brush got caught on a zipper, opened a small pocket and stuff spilled out. The trail continued though, opening up over the top of a few balds to allow for great views. Then, as we started down the second bald, the trail vanished, just stopped. There simply was no clear path onwards. Our backcountry experience became something else. I fired up the smart phone to see just where we were and tried unsuccessfully to find the trail. At one point, with the brush being so thick, Mike and I stood up on some rock formations we had found and let Thomas walk around the brush with his hiking stick held high to see if we could find the trail. We didn't. I fired up the smart phone again after about 2 hours of hunting for the trail and began to hack our way through the brush just following the map. We came upon a very clear campsite but no clear trail off after this. Once again, we began going through the thick brush in the direction of the trail marked on my phone. At one point, we were nearly scuttling along on our stomachs through the thick brush. Then, we heard it. At least Thomas and I did. A low growl. We both looked at each other and I said “its time to go back”. We high tailed it out of there back to that campsite we had found earlier.
(Edit 11/21/2011. Look below in the comments for a website that shows how to find the trail.)
After a bit of research, I found another way up to Cold Mountain that we could do in one day. We camped out at a Comfort Inn, dried all of our gear, ate Mexican….and then ordered a pizza and got ready for the next day.
The way up can be divided into three segments. The first segment is the initial climb from the camp. It goes up very quickly over very rocky terrain. The climb did warm us up quickly though and we were out of the wind. The trail continued like this for about one mile, going up steeply as we gained about 2000 feet. Then, we went around one bend and the mountain was in view, albeit covered in clouds. And then the wind hit us.
We ran into a couple that was on their way down who were woefully underdressed. She had his gloves on and tights and they both were red and looked miserable. We traded quick stories but they clearly wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible.
The view was great. I can really only let the pictures do the talking.
And now, I await the spring. Next year I have trips planned in the Rockies, the Clingman’s dome from Deep Creek campground, Mt Mitchell from the very bottom, and some section of the AT I have yet to plan. I hope Mike and Thomas enjoyed themselves and are willing to go with me again.
The winter comes, and Id love to do snow hike, but, my wife is due any day now, and I believe I will stay home this winter and enjoy the addition of a new hiker to my family.
Cheers for 2011 and happy hiking in 2012.
|That's me, if anyone is curious.|