Saturday, September 26, 2020

A Beautiful Sunset & Frosty Morning Make For A Wondrous Trip On Coldsprings Mountain

Ever since my first visit to the bald on Coldsprings Mountain, in 2016, I had wanted to camp here. Well, that idea came to be on my backpack to this wonderful spot this week.
For those not familiar with this great place on the Bald Mountains the Appalachian Trail (AT) goes right through the middle of the meadow. It is about one mile AT North of Jerry Cabin Shelter and ends where the Sarvis Cove Trail comes up. I had been here on three different occasions (2017 & 2019) but fell in love on the first go. So, camping here was a priority, but there was one problem water in the meadow. The closest source I know of is back a mile down at Jerry Cabin. This means you have to carry it uphill and the water isn't light. I remember carrying water at Cumberland Mountain last year and it wasn't fun.

Still, I wanted to camp here so figuring out the logistics as part of the plan. The main goal was getting my pack weight down to make carrying the water easier. Doing this backpack was one of the reasons I got the REI Flash one-person tent. So, after a test run at Mount Rogers earlier in the month, I decided it was time to pull the trigger on a Coldsprings outing.

My plan was to do two nights out because I planned to also camp in the Jones Meadow area for a sunset trip up to Camp Creek Bluffs, but more on that later. I was originally going to go out Saturday to Monday, but this happened, and that so I moved everything back a day. I didn't realize it but this made it four years to the day that I first visited Coldsprings Mountain. The weather called for it to be a little colder and low wind so, I wasn't that worried but I would be reminded that in the mountains never take the weather for granted.

Anyway, the plan was to hike from Jones Meadow on the AT over Big Firescald Knob, pick up water at Jerry Cabin, and then up to Coldsprings Mountain, clocking in at about five miles. After a slight detour, it was still morning when I arrived at Jones Meadow. I forgot to mention this trip was just me and Pete (he had his say here). After getting the back on I started out. I first made a stop at the old Camp Creek Bald Lean-to, scoping it out for a possible second day-night campsite.

It is not too far from here to the AT, through Bearwallow Gap and up to Big Firescald Knob. I know I have blogged many times about this spot, but it is a personal favorite of mine... spectacular! After a quick snake and enjoying the view I headed on.

The great thing about this stretch is that there are vistas across most of this section. Oh, there is one sport where the trail goes down a rock face. I have to say when up here I wonder about rattlesnakes. Guess what when I stepped on a rock here I think I heard one/ Let's just say I was lucky I didn't face plant because leaping with a big pack, not a great idea.

Eventually, I reached the junction with the Bad Weather (old AT) Trail at Fox Cabin Gap. I have to say the AT from here to Jerry's Cabin is one of my favorite parts of the trail. It is a straight ridgeline, meaning it goes up and down, but it is beautiful. It passes the junction of the Round Knob Trail (an old road to the recreation area that I almost used for this backpack), then up Bald Mountain, pass the gnarly tree, and then down and a short climb up to the junction with the Fork Ridge Trail. I was happy when I got there because I knew it was a short downhill to Jerry Cabin Shelter.

It was here that I took a break and went and got my water, about 80 ounces, loaded up, and headed up towards Pete wanted to stay here, but I reminded him it is closed. The hike up isn't the hardest as it switchbacks, but I could feel the extra weight. So, when I reached the bald I was relieved.

Where I was going to camp was at the Northeast end of the meadow. So, I had a little more to do, but on the way, I noticed that part of the bald had been mowed in spots. Oh, and they knocked down the AT White Blaze posts, but I put the one not broken back up.

I set up camp and in the process did a better job of getting of putting up my REI Flash tent. Once I got my camp set up I ate and after went on a short hike to Commandment Rock about 0.3 miles north on the AT. It also allowed me to check out where the Sarvis Cove Trail comes up (future hike, soon).

Still, I headed on because I wanted to get back so I could walk out and watch the sunset. To get the best view I had to take a short walk back to the Southwest end of the meadow. As the pictures show it was well worth it.

Something else that came apparent as the Sun went down was how it changed the weather. Remember I mentioned this at the start, but the wind picked up and the temperature dropped and I mean it got cold quick. That means when I got back to camp, building a fire was essential.  Since my camp had cover from the wind wasn't too bad but it swirled, so I did suck in a lot of smoke. Still, it was a nice fire, and let me tell you it felt good too.

Overnight, the wind picked up and it got cold, really cold. The cold woke me up at about 1 am. Still, I didn't know how cold it got until morning as there was frost on the ground!  So, it had to be at least in the mid-30 and with the wind, the wind chill was in the 20s. Which I can believe as this was the coldest night I have endured so far camping. It was the cold, the stiffness from the temps, and the sinus headache all made me decided to just do this night only. Plus it was still windy and it was going to be just as cold, so I did wuss out. One cool thing, I saw a cool Sunrise effect in the trees.

After breakfast, I packed up and headed out. I again stopping at Jerry Cabin for water. Then back along that ridgeline section, which AT South has to harder uphill spots. One just past the Fork Ridge Trail and the next up from Lick Log Gap. One good thing, I didn't sweat because the wind and cold followed me. However, these hills took any spark I had left and I still had two miles left when I reached Fox Cabin Gap.

I had decided the day before I would take the Bad Weather Trail back and the way I felt it was the right decision. This 1.5 miles back was more than hard enough and I was happy to see that junction sign in Bearwallow Gap. Not just because I was almost done, but it was the first time I had been warm all day.

Anyway, since I was heading home after the hike I had two more stops. The first was Blackstack Cliffs before heading on out to White Rock Cliffs.

Before long I was back at the car, I was tired, sore but satisfied. Because even with hauling water, the cold, and my tired legs it was all worth it. Camping on Coldsprings Mountain was as awesome as I imagined. I will be doing this spot again...