26 Sep Shining Rock Wilderness / Cold Mountain Hike – Sept 23 & 24 2011
Sept 23, 2011
Slept in the back of the van last night at the parking for the trailhead for Old Butt Knob trail. Rained all night. In the morning I cooked breakfast in the rain, but the rain cleared before I started hiking. Old Butt Knob trail is not as tough as Green Mountain trail, but it does have some very steep sections along
a narrow rocky ridge. The sky became absolutely clear blue with a few clouds blanketing some lower mountains and valleys. Just as quickly the clouds moved in again. Took a long break at Shining Rocks enjoying a great view from the white quartz outcroppings. Having been soaked from wet branches and sitting in the wind, I needed my jacket during the break. Now I am on Star Mountain having red beans and rice for lunch. I have only seen a couple on Art Loeb trail. They were returning from a wet night on Cold Mountain. Now, on to Cold Mtn for me! Oh yes…my left knee is a little sore from the steep climbs.
Mark on Shining Rock
I am relaxing in my tarp tent near the top of Cold Mountain. Passing through the narrows required a lot of stepping up large rocks. I thought I had finished the hard part this morning. The narrows have great views from both sides. The ridge is so rocky and narrow there is very little room for a trail. I took my time and made detours to climb over some of the more spectacular rocks.
I met a couple of guys, Drew and Taylor from Charlotte, NC, at the gap where the Cold Mountain trail intersects Art Loeb. They had started at Daniel Boone Scout Camp (north end of Art Loeb) and were hiking south, the length of Art Loeb. Taking a wrong turn, they had just come down from Cold Mountain. They pointed at another trail that they thought was Art Loeb and I told them that the trail they were pointing at might be a trail, but that it is not on the map. It took a little conversation before I understood that they intended to continue south on Art Loeb. I pointed out the trail that I had just come down and Drew said, “We wondered about that, you just appeared coming out of that overgrowth. Looking back at where I came out, I realized that it would be hard to see the overgrown trail. Drew had been so confused that he couldn’t point out Art Loeb in the direction that they had just come from.
This reminds me of a sign at the Trailhead parking lot, “What to do if you are lost”. Among the advice is to go down a drainage until you cross a trail or road. I wouldn’t want to try that. This is the only time I have seen a “Lost” sign. Undoubtedly, many people get lost here with the many confusing unmarked trails.
Finished supper and began to wonder whether I brought enough food. I didn’t really plan the meals like I usually do. I got lazy and threw some food in the pack. I might be a couple of meals short.
Haven’t seen any. Just hung an awesome bearline. Usually I don’t go to much trouble to make a good bear line. Last trip i didn’t hang the food. I put it a little way from my tent. Just far enough so the bear wouldn’t need to crawl over me to get the food and just close enough that I could scare any bear that was getting my food; not that this method would work. Taylor (of the lost guys) had a big red can of bear spray. Some company is making some money selling that stuff. It was the 2nd person I have recently seen with bear repellant. I can imagine the salesperson…telling stories of bear attacks. The customer says, “I plan on hiking in Shininig Rock”. The salesperson says, ” Beautiful place, Did you hear about the bear attack there last week? … Tragic…If only the young lady had had bear repellant with her.”
Rhododendrum Tunnel on Art Loeb trail just north of Shining Rock Gap
Mark settled in on Cold Mountain. I made it an early day, knocking off at 5PM.
My campsite on Cold Mountain
Bear Bag is hung on Cold Mountain
View of Cold Mountain from the Narrows
Sept 24, 2011
My knee felt fine today. I slept warmly last night with the sound of occasional gusts of wind and my tarp pulled all of the way up on one side. I was awake at 6:15 am, with bear bag retrieved and coffee heating up. By 8 AM I was descending Cold Mountain. I was surprised to see that someone had pitched a tent about a hundred yards down the trail from me. I walked quietly by as they slept. Descending section 4 of the Art Loeb trail toward the Daniel Boone Scout Camp, I passed one large deadfall that was causing a new trail blaze straight up the hill and around the tree. About a mile later, I met a group of trail maintainers hiking toward this deadfall. They carried a cross-cut saw. I asked them if it was a “bow” saw. I meant to say cross-cut saw, but it was too late. They took me for a novice and began to explain the technical requirements of their jobs with regard to Wilderness regulations.
At Daniel Boone Scout camp, I made a mental note of the parking that was available for hikers. (There is plenty of parking on the roadside before crossing the bridge.) I ran into several others readying themselves for a day-hike up Cold Mountain. I continued up the road past the sign for the East Fork Trail and over the bridge. Trailheads for the East Fork and Art Loeb are both easy to find. East Fork was a nice ascending trail falling an old logging road. It followed the creek on the right bank, finally crossing and continuing up the road away from the creek and toward Shining Rock Gap. It is an easy walk. The creek had nice water cascades, pools, and slides. At one point I spied huge granite formations hidden in the woods on the opposite bank. The 3 – 4 story tall granite monoliths split into what appeared to be a large opening or cave. Hidden in the dark trees, it was difficult to pick out. Next time I need to check out these rocks. I continued over Beech Gap and had a late lunch on the Shining Rock Creek trail. Shortly after crossing a particularly tricky deadfall, I met a young man moving toward me with a quick pace. We stopped briefly as I stated what a tough deadfall he would soon be climbing over. We quickly recognized one another. This was the guy I met during a hike in the Citico Creek Wilderness a couple of years ago. He was the youngest person to have ever hiked all of the trails in the Smokies. By 3 PM, I was back to the car.