So here's the plan: get to the Black Balsam Trail head around noon, follow the northern bit of the Art Loeb Trail north, camp near Cold Mtn and summit first thing for a sunrise before heading south on the Ivestor Trail to the truck. So much for plans... hikers are laid back people, relaxed, flexible and these are good things. We all know uptight people make bad hikers right?
I hit the trail closer to 1:30, but made good time. Its pretty easy going at first. Just over ridges filled with wild flowers and good views. Some elevation changes, but if you hike in western NC you're used to that and used to a lot worse than this.
Weather was not ideal, but not terrible. The forecast was for sunny and clear in the towns and a chance of afternoon t-storms in the mountains. What really happened was off and on light rain all day. Enough to keep you cool and the springs full, but still pretty wet going through tall overgrown trail.
The bees were loving all the flowers, and the bugs were out in full force, but stayed away from me. I didn't have to deal with a single insect pest mostly butterflies.
This is pretty much what the trail turned into north of Ivestor Gap. Blue berries. Tons of them as far as the eye can see, because thats all you can see. Sometimes a good foot over my head and always covering up the trail. Believe it or not thats a picture of the actual trail and not even the worst of it.
Things got a bit cold and wet fighting through the wet blueberry bushes.
The overgrown trail and lack of blazes, trail signs or markers on any of the trails made for some confusing junctions. I'm pretty happy I brought my compass along instead of just the map. Once I dropped down north of Shining Rock is when things started getting frustrating. The trail basically petered out to nothing. I spent a good hour going back and forth following game trails to nowhere and trying over and over again to find the trail hoping that I just missed a switchback or something. No such luck so I turned around and scrapped my Cold Mountain plans. I filled up on water near Shining Rock Gap and hiked south back to Ivestor Gap for the night.
After I turned around I couldn't get my mind off my Ramen, salmon and broccoli dinner I had waiting for me in my pack.
Relaxing and drying my feet out. Taking the views in while waiting on supper.
Looking south at Ivestor Gap with my tarp and campsite.
We may not have the scale and space of the American west, but I still love southern Appalachia.
Nice sunset before bed.
I should've used a flatter rock as my tripod. I promise I wasn't camping on that steep of an incline.
I pitched my tarp low and tight expecting some late night thunderstorms, but the forecast was wrong again. Its the clearest night I've ever had in the southeast. Definitely the starriest night I've witnessed in the southern Appalachias. After some star gazing I crawled into bed for a pretty good night's sleep.
Overall it was a good quick little overnight. A good blow to my hiking pride having to change plans after misplacing the trail (I wasn't lost I knew exactly where I was just not where the trail was! right?). Oddly enough a few years ago when I was on my 3rd backpacking trip it was an Art Loeb attempt and we had to bail after one night. Cold Mountain being an easy and accessible 6,000 footer is still haunting me.