Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Appalachian Trail: Firescald Ridge Relocation Loop

Not the greatest weather this morning, but I still decided I needed to get out of the house for a little hike. I packed up my pack and hit the road. I traveled the Asheville Highway to just before the North Carolina border and then headed up Viking Mountain Road. I ascended and ascended and ascended eventually ending up high on Camp Creek Bald. I parked the car at the intersection of two roughly paved roads and stepped out into the enveloping fog. The fog lent an air of mystery and melancholy to the scene at Jones Meadow
Foggy Camp Creek Bald
and I explored the meadow a bit before turning off onto a blue-blazed road for my hike, a 4.5 mile loop on the relocated Appalachian Trail over Firescald Knob and old Appalachian Trail.
Blue Blazed road

The road walk was easy but a bit confusing as there were roads heading in many different directions. Plus, the recent rains turned the middle of several sections of road into big mud bogs. I did see an interesting section of wall.
Could this be the remains of the resort that is rumored to have existed up here? I was relieved when I reached the Appalachian Trail itself. This section of the AT was relatively easy hiking; level and not too rocky. I made good time to the intersection of the old and new sections of trail.
junction in trail
At the intersection I opted to hike the old, blue-blazed section first. My reasoning was that it was still a bit foggy up here and I thought that maybe as the day progressed the sun would burn off some of the fog and I would get better views on the new and more exposed AT. 

The hike along the blue blazed "foul weather" section of trail was not too interesting, but the hiking went pretty fast.
on blue blazed trail
I did see a few juncos flitting here and there.
Before I knew it I was at the other intersection of the trails, the point where I would take the new AT and start to head back towards the car. The hiking almost immediately got more interesting as I climbed up to a narrow rocky ridge with lots of views through openings in the fog to the east into North Carolina
view into NC
and west into Tennessee. The trail was quite rugged up on the ridge.
on rock stairs
There was uneven footing and the the damp fog made the rock slick.
hiking on ridge
There were lots of flowers in bloom. Mostly they were white clusters of flowers on a stalk with grassy-looking leaves.
white cluster flowers
twin clusters
lots of clusters
There was also some rhododendron in bloom.
nice rhododendron

Eventually the trail headed off the ridge and back into the woods. I came to the end of the loop section of trail and started to retrace my steps on the section of AT that I had hiked earlier. This time I decided to take the side trail that led to Blackstack Cliff.
blackstack cliffs sign
The trail was quite rugged, but it led to a very nice view off into Greene County and Greeneville.
Eric on Blackstack Cliffs
I can imagine this view is even more spectacular on a nice clear day.
foggy cliffs view
I rested for a few minutes at the viewpoint before retracing my steps to the AT.

It was a short walk on the AT back to the blue blazed road/trail that led to the car. Once I was back at the car I could look back at the Blackstack Cliffs which I had stood on just a few minutes earlier.
Blackstack Cliffs View
Jones Meadow was no longer as fogged in as it was earlier and I didn't really want to leave. I did want to see Noelle and Sierra though, and so I reluctantly got in the car and made the drive down the mountain and back home.                 

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