Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Shining Rock Wilderness

We started with the best of intentions. Drive up to Graveyard Fields overlook along the Blue Ridge Parkway and hike past a few waterfalls into Shining Rock Wilderness and then on to summit the Cold Mountain of movie fame. Here we are ready to embark on the 20+ mile adventure over the Memorial Day weekend.
The first hour of the trip went according to plan. We hiked a pleasant trail down a few hundred feet along the Parkway Loop trail, then along the Yellowstone Prong back up to Upper Falls. I thought the reference to the real Upper Falls on the Yellowstone river in Wyoming was pretty cute, though of course it can't compete with the real thing. (You can read about my trip to Upper Falls, Wyoming, in my archives in September '06.) Despite the unfavorable comparison, this version was very nice and worth the hike.
At this point, the plan began to go awry. The trail from upper falls to the Mountains to Sea trail mentioned in North Carolina Hiking was not apparent. Eventually, we did find a rugged route to the top of the falls, and from there a sparse trail generally headed in the right direction. Unfortunately, that quickly turned into several hours of bushwhacking through thick brush up a steep incline. Then, halfway in, the steady drizzle began. Eventually we made our way to Mountains to Sea, but by then we were a pretty weary, bedraggled bunch just 2 miles into our plan.
No problem, we'll just hike along the Mountains to Sea trail to the Art Loeb trail and up it until we find a decent camping area and set up camp. We'll just hunker down for the night. Tomorrow will be a better day. Uh, no. The drizzle turned into a heavier rain that lasted through the evening, through the night and into the next morning. A night of tent flooding and tent hopping to try to find a dry space left us even more tired and bedraggled the next morning with no signs of a letup. We were experiencing clouds close up and they were less pleasant from the inside than from above or below.
After some discussion, we decided it did not make sense trying to continue our route in the rain, along, by now, very muddy trails. At the same time, we weren't excited to retrace our previous day back down to the trailhead in those conditions either. Fortunately, we were near another trailhead, so we decided to hike/hitchhike down the road to our car. Here we are, ready for that trek. Amazingly, we look less bedraggled than I felt.
After just a few minutes some nice hikers who were also giving up their plans stopped and offered me a ride to our trailhead. After some shuttling, we loaded our gear and headed home, humbled by our efforts. Apparently, the rain continued through the weekend. So, I'm content with our decision. Besides, we realized later, we now already have a nice hike up to Shining Rock and Cold Mountain planned from our second trailhead. Or, maybe we'll leave from the same trailhead and take the more established trail past Yellowstone Falls to the Graveyard Ridge trail and onward from there, with a nice weather forecast. I'm looking forward to it.

1 comment:

nemattox said...

It's too bad about the trail and the weather, but I'm glad it looks like you guys had a good sense of humor about it all. I have to admit, I was surprised to hear from Jeremy on Sunday afternoon, though! I thought the rain was predicted to stay away for the weekend. Anyway, looks like an adventure!