On Labor Day, for the first time in 2011 - my year of foot surgery, death in the family, and plantar fasciitis - I got in a hike in the mountains. I hiked with a friend up Cole Mountain on a rainy and foggy day. This hike would have amazing views in clear weather, and is essentially a "loop" over from the Pleasant Mountain hike that I did last fall. In fact, you could easily combine the two in a "figure of eight" route, either as a long single day hike or a leisurely backpacking trip. I'd vote for the latter.
The rain started just as we hit the trailhead after a long ride from Richmond along Route 60 and a few miles of very rough gravel road. Within minutes, we saw multiple piles of black bear scat, and kept alert. In fact, my hiking buddy Hawkeye did spot a small bear near our lunch break. Far more dangerous than bears are Homo sapiens. A hiker from Indiana was murdered on the Appalachian trail here less than a month ago and apparently within a few miles of where we hiked - maybe even on the same section of the A.T. So far, there are few details released and no known suspects. It is very tragic.
I captured the track of our route using my DeLorme PN-60 GPS. We went clockwise from the parking spot - the top left-most point on the map on the Wiggins Spring Road, shortly after turned right up the Old Hotel Trail, and joined the Appalachian Trail a little more than three miles later. We turned right, headed through the human maintained balds on Cold Mountain, and headed back to the car.It was about 6.5 miles of walking with about 1,300 feet of elevation gain, most of it very gradual. It rained steadily about 70% of the hike, with very dense fog. Up on Cold Mountain (labeled by the USGS as "Cole") the fog was so thick that if one of us moved 50 paces from the other, we became invisible. I ended the hike with a sore heel from the plantar fasciitis, a blister on my little toe, soaked to the skin, and with a big smile that no amount of rain could wash away. Foot pain? Steady rain? Elevation gain? Can't complain! I was hiking again in the mountains! It was a total blast!
We saw so many cool mushrooms! This one looked like butter:
This one looked like a nicely cooked pan cake to go with that butter - does my little gnome look hungry?
This one was a beautiful lavender:
We came on the most amazing campsite here, under the oak trees. I don't remember seeing a good water source nearby.
A mile or so later is Cow Camp Gap Shelter, which has good tentsites nearby, an outhouse, and a stream not to far away. It was close to here that Hawkeye spotted the small bear. At times, the woods almost looked haunted in the fog.Moisure dripped from this spider web like jewels.
Chris a.k.a "Hawkeye" stands on a rock by a colorful sumac near the summit of Cold Mountain in the flog.
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