Sunday, September 9, 2012

Hiking the Cold Mountain loop

Yesterday I hiked a new trail, the Cold Mountain loop, one that's been on my short list of trails for some time. It was a great day for hiking: an overcast sky kept the temperatures cool, and while rain threatened it didn't actually start drizzling until the last 15 minutes of the hike (we made it back to the car before the heavy rain started and never had to break out the rain gear). It's a great hike, a 6-mile loop that wanders across ridges, across fern-covered hillsides, and up on the Appalachian Trail to beautiful balds and vistas on Cold Mountain. (For clarity's sake, this is Cold Mountain in Virginia, not the North Carolina peak of Charles Frazier's novel.)

One of the many views from Cold Mountain
Hiking Upward has a good trail description, downloadable topo map, and directions to the Cold Mountain hike on their website.  The first section of the trail is actually the Hotel Trail, which goes gently uphill to a ridgetop campsite that could easily host dozens of tents, then cuts across the side of a steep hillside. The trail cuts through woods without much heavy undergrowth, allowing you to look way up and down the hillsides, which are often covered with ferns.  We came to this very long rock wall that extended as far up and down the hillside as we could see:

Old rock wall on the Hotel Trail/ Cold Mountain loop

Another view of the rock wall.

There were plenty of late-season wildflowers on the trail, including the asters below and plenty of thistle on the ridge line and balds. We also came across a cute little red frog as well.
Clusters of asters were all over the ridge lines
Wildflowers along the Appalachian Trail segment of the Cold Mountain loop.
This cute little frog was very patient as I took pictures.
The real treat of the trail are the balds on top of Cold Mountain.  As you can see it was a cloudy and hazy - typical late summer mountaintop weather - so the distant ranges were somewhat difficult to see.  But on a clear, cool day in late fall or winter the views must be magnificent. Several places afford a 360 degree, sweeping view of the surrounding Blue Ridge.
Low clouds frame the hills

Rock, tree, hillside, clouds.
View from a saddle in the bald.
My hiking pal Dave going from the upper bald to the lower bald.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Wildflowers and more summer photos

Late summer wildflower bed and assorted photos. Enjoy!

Backyard wildflower bed in the morning fog.
Wildflower bed and bottle tree

Sunflowers looming above we mere mortals
Shy sunflower awaiting its moment in the sun
Asta loves running through the wildflower bed
And a few other late summer photos:

Wall and barn door, carriage trails, Mose Cone Manor, Blowing Rock, NC

Handblown glass jars at the Southern Highland Craft Guild shop, Moses Cone Manor

Colorful plate things at the Southern Highland Gift Shop

Bou, asleep on vacation

Pandapas Pond near Blacksburg, late in the afternoon