Saturday, June 25, 2011

Shining Rock Wilderness: Cold Mountain Hike

I set off to summit Cold Mountain at 6pm on Friday, June 24th. After two and a half grueling hours of hauling my Osprey Aether 60 up from Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp (2650ft), I finally found Deep Gap (5000ft). I was concerned for a while that I had taken a wrong turn somehow since the Art Loeb trail (starting at the BS Camp) has no blazes. I camped for the night at 5000ft at Deep Gap. When the sun rose, I set off for the summit of Cold Mountain which would be 6030ft. It took me another hour and half from deep gap to the top of Cold Mountain, even though I left my pack and hammock at Deep Gap taking only some Mojo Bars, a GU Energy packet, my rain jacket, and the Nikon D3100 up the mountain with me.

Deep Gap
My primary goal was to summit Cold Mountain, while secondarily I was interested in searching for a crashed B-26 bomber from 1946. When I headed into Pisgah a few weekends back, I stopped in at the Ranger Station just outside of Brevard in order to pick up a map of Pisgah Ranger District. When I struck up a conversation about some of the best hikes in the area, one of the rangers got to talking about Cold Mountain. This lead to that and so on and eventually one of the rangers mentioned an old World War II bomber crash on Cold Mountain. He couldn't recall where the bomber had crashed, but called over an ancient looking park ranger. This ranger said he knew where the bomber lay and marked on my map, just a little east of the trail, just before the Cold Mountain trail turns sharply west to go to the summit. He claimed it was just about 200 yards off the trail, and I'd have to "crawl on hands and knees under the Rhododendrons to find it".

I got to Deep Gap around 9pm on Friday and initially didn't recognize it as the Gap. Taking off my pack, I found water dripping onto my shorts. I rifled through my pack to check my water bottles and found they were not leaking. That's when I realized my shirt had absorbed so much sweat it was dripping onto my pants. Needless to say I changed clothes, hung those out to dry, cooked dinner and ate it with my back against a tree as I was unusually paranoid about bears that night.

"COLD" Elevation
In the morning I made the hike up to Cold Mountain and passed two hikers coming down. They advised me to keep hiking up the trail until I found some good overlooks, saying that they had missed the summit on a previous trip because they didn't go up far enough. I found that there are several good camp sites just below the summit. Continuing through these, the trail narrows and is overgrown with raspberry bushes and low trees. It comes out about three times onto narrow rocky outcroppings providing unobstructed views to the south from 6000ft elevation before finally reaching the summit rock, marked with a USGS plaque. The plaque seems to indicate that the mountain is "COLD" feet high. I'm not sure why someone stamped "COLD" onto the plaque instead of the actual elevation (6030ft) but there you have it.

View from one of the Cold Mountain overlooks, facing south
When I got back down, I took off into the overgrown bush where the old park ranger had indicated the B-26 originally crashed. I searched for about an hour but gave up after tiring myself out bushwhacking on the side of Cold Mountain. I did some more research after I got back and found out there's a book published as "Cold Mountain Bomber Crash". Maybe this book would have the clues one needs to find the lost B-26, or maybe not. This Indiana Jones adventure will have to await another wild soul to find the lost B-26. All in all it took me over 7000 feet of vertical elevation change to yo-yo hike from Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp to Cold Mountain's summit and back again. This is not an easy hike, the trail takes ascents that are nearly hand over fist and the Art Loeb lacks blazes. The Cold Mountain trail is blazed with gold paint stripes but is easy to follow anyway. The trail is hard but the rewards are worth it. Are you up for a challenge?

Happy Trails!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Shining Rock Wilderness

The Author on top of Shining Rock
Finally, I made it out to Shining Rock in the Shining Rock Wilderness of Western North Carolina. Nestled within the huge Pisgah National Forest, the Shining Rock Wilderness surrounds the pinnacle of this attraction: Shining Rock. There are a couple of ways into this marble dome mountain, the route I chose and have walked before, was coming from Black Balsam's parking area where it's about a six mile hike one way into the wilderness. Or you could opt to park at the Ivestor Gap Trail parking area and walk the Ivestor Gap Trail until it meets the Art Loeb. The latter is the easier hike.

Looking down on Shining Rock from the top.
When you get to Shining Rock Gap, there is a series of confusing intersections of trails, of which, none are marked. You must take the north bound trail from here and you will find shining rock up a series of steep inclines, about five minutes away. The first signs are obvious, you'll pass a lot of marble rock scree once you enter the pine forest. The rock debris will increase in frequency until you finally arrive at a giant marble rock dome: Shining Rock. You can climb up from the bottom on the slippery marble, or you can follow the rock up from the bottom until you come across a few unmarked obscure trails that lead up through the trails to the top of the rock. Following the trails is, obviously, the easier route.

The view is amazing from the top of the rock. Well worth the hike. There's good camping spots around Shining Rock Gap where all the trails intersect. Not a lot of good water sources nearby, however. Just fill up on your way in though. This is a hike well worth your time and the Art Loeb, should you choose to follow it, has some great views from the top of Balsam Knob and Tennet Mountain.

Happy Trails

Friday, June 17, 2011

Working in the Outdoors

Somewhere between working seventy-hour weeks and hiking all weekend, I have been having trouble getting out blog articles lately. Really it’s not my fault, per-se, but more the fault of having so much beautiful land around me. Living just west of Hendersonville, NC I find my free time to be limited due to the siren song of the beautiful Appalachian Mountains, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the great gear stores that surround Western North Carolina. That being said, I have learned a lot, tested new gear, bought plenty more, and am still rolling through this wonderful dream of living and working in the outdoors.

It’s a dream that many have and few ever realize. To work without walls to hold one in, to live each day in harmony with the world around one, and to continually further one’s practical knowledge of outdoor skills. You might be asking, or have asked yourself at some point, “is it feasible for me to make a living by working outside doing things like canoeing, skiing, hiking, or teaching”. I’m here to tell you: yes it is possible and not hard to do. There are great rewards for those of us who labor through love to make our livings in the outdoors. There is something free out here in the mountains, teaching kids every day, living and working in the forest.

It’s not an extravagant life, no. Living and working in the great outdoors is not generally a well paying industry to find yourself in. Before you commit to pursuing a career or even a summer job in an outdoor setting, one must be fully prepared to face hardships and receive minimal tangible rewards for one’s efforts. The real rewards come in feeding the soul. There are those of us that simply cannot live life in a cubicle, and putting your feet on an outdoor educator or leadership career path will show your soul the path to freedom. It’s a busy crazy world we all live in today and it’s important to find time to seek our roots and calm the soul.

If this sounds like the goals you pursue in life then maybe you should pursue a career in outdoor education. There are many institutions that offer degrees in outdoor education or related fields and it is an intensely rewarding field of work. Imagine waking up every morning to lead a group of people on a hike up a cloud-covered mountain, or lead a multi-pitch route up your favorite rock. It’s easy to sleep well in this profession if not because of sheer physical exhaustion, the because of peace of mind. Each day is a privilege, not a right and to live life to its fullest is our duty. Get out there, find your passion, and live your dream.

Happy Trails!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Keeping You Posted

If you've been tuning in lately and not found much new content it's because my summer camp counselor job has started once again. Those of you in the industry are familiar with the 14 hour days and how precious little time one finds for themself. I've had a lot of great new experiences and used and tested a lot of great new gear. Expect to see updates coming out soon as I put the Adventure Lifestyle Blog back on my priorities along with great weekend hikes in Western North Carolina. I love you all, and stay tuned!