James and I are getting ready for another big hike, this time across the width of the UK. It’s a long hike, 190 miles, and will take us almost three weeks to complete so we have begun training in earnest. Of course it’s not really fair to call it “training” when it is so much fun and something we would be doing anyway! This 4th of July we decided to take a picnic to the top of Cold Mountain.
It’s not an easy hike. At 6,030 ft the summit is an arduous 11 mile round trip adventure which climbs 3,000 feet to the mountain’s top. But it’s worth the effort. Cold Mountain is part of the Shining Rock Wilderness area in the Pisgah National Forest. As such it is left as much as possible in its natural state. If you read Charles Frazier’s novel “Cold Mountain” or saw the 2003 movie of the same name, then you will understand me when I say the mountain is probably much like it was during the Civil War. The trail is well worn but narrow and filled with rocks and roots. Shortly after we began the ascent the noise of the Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp faded behind us. Sunlight filtered through the trees and the only sounds (besides our breathing) were the whine of the
occasional gnat and birds singing in the distance. Hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I often ponder how hard life must have been for the early explorers and settlers. I find myself thinking about hiking in long skirts and heavy shoes, helping to manhandle wagons over the passes and back down into the valley’s below and I am filled with awe for their accomplishment.
We saw no one as we climbed. There was the occasional leaf pierced by someone’s hiking pole and once I saw a boot print but other than that it was completely ours. After about two and a half hours of hard work we came upon a rocky outlook. The trail guide said that the view from the top was obscured by bushes and suggested this outcrop as a good picnic place. So we off-loaded our day packs there and climbed the last quarter mile enjoying the freedom of a dropped 20 pounds! You can imagine our feelings when we reached the pinnacle of Cold Mountain and discovered that someone else had gotten there first. Isn’t that just the way of life? If you want go to turn around in a driveway the car behind you will always belong to the driveway’s owner. And if you climb a deserted mountain the only person you meet will be enjoying the view from top (and there was totally a good place to picnic there!). But nevermind. He was a nice man and had an interesting story so it was all good. Saying good-bye, we returned to our bags and spent a lovely half an hour looking at the view and sharing our picnic.
After that it was down and down and down and down until we reached the base and returned to the Carolina Bed & Breakfast, tired but happy.