2014/06/25

Pink Beds and hiking in the clouds

I've been back on my meds for almost two weeks and am really noticing a difference. I feel much better.

Beaver pond at Pink Beds.
On Monday Rocko and I took a quick, two-hour or so hike around the Pink Beds Loop, just across the Pisgah Ridge from us in Transylvania County, North Carolina.


It was supposed to start raining some time after noon, so I wanted a fairly quick hike. The Pink Beds Loop is about 5 miles around, but it is relatively flat and an easy walk. The area is very different from the Shining Rock Wilderness. For one thing, it's a lot warmer on the south side of the Ridge. For another, it is a wide and open valley with a lot a slow creeks, rather than a collection of narrow valleys with fast, cold creeks. A walk through the woods, rather than a mountain hike.

Deadfalls just past the pond.

We were in and out within two hours. Sure enough, it started sprinkling a little bit just as we crested the Ridge on our way home. A couple of hours later we had almost a half inch of rain.

Yesterday we went up to the Flat Laurel Creek Trail, which is entirely over 5,000 ft. in elevation. On that day it was also below the cloud ceiling much of the time. Despite being surrounded by mountains, we could see none of them most of the time.

I had been wanting to ascend the Flat Laurel Creek Trail from the bottom, i.e. the trailhead on Route 215, for some time. We had already been down from the top as far as the Little Sam Trail (the one with the disingenuous "Easiest" rating) but I didn't want to go all the way down and then have to ascend the entire trail to get back to the car.

Hiking is like canoeing. Go uphill (or upstream) first. That way, when you decide that you are getting tired and it's time to turn back, you have an easier journey home.

We neither saw nor heard any other hikers on this trip. We went all the way up to the Little Sam junction, then went back down to the Sam Knob Trail junction. I took off my shoes and forded the creek, and we ascended a wet and muddy trail through low trees as far as the junction with the Sam Knob Summit Trail, where I could get a good look at the sky, which in this case was right on top of us.

At the foot of Sam Knob. Here comes the rain!
This is why we carry a poncho.
Yeah, it's gonna rain, I said, and decided against trying to climb Sam Knob. "Let's go, Rocko," I said, and we headed back down toward Flat Laurel Creek.

The section of Sam Knob Trail from the creek to the base of the mountain is wet and slippery on the driest of days, but it started raining before we made it 50 feet down. After a few minutes I got out my poncho and wore it all the way back to the car. Even after the rain stopped, the trees and mountain laurel were wet and I would've gotten soaked.

Back at the car, it had barely rained at all, though visibility was treacherously poor as we headed toward home on the Blue Ridge Parkway. There is a sign as you enter the Parkway that warns you to "Avoid the Parkway During Rain Snow or Fog" and you really do have to go SLOW and be very careful when visibility is down to a few hundred feet or even less. It ain't exactly fog; you are literally inside the clouds.

What a great view!
On the way home I took a picture of the iconic Devil's Courthouse. (You can click on the image at left to embiggen it, but you still won't see anything.)

At home, maybe five miles away as the crow flies, it was sunny and 85℉. No sign of rain, though it did come down pretty good a few hours later.

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