Woods Mountain / Mountains to Sea Trail Day 1
This weekend we finally went backpacking with Freya and Mark! We've been talking about doing this for a while, but we both have busy schedules. We couldn't all take a Friday or Monday off, so we were limited. Staying at my in-laws' cabin/shack near Nebo Friday night helped us get on the trail. We did the Woods Mountain section of MST trail, one way. The way we picked was UP! It starts at Green Mountain Rd off 211 near Marion and goes all the way up to the Blue Ridge Parkway at the Buck Creek Overlook.
|Crocuses at the cabin in Nebo. It's spring in February!|
We got a late start on Saturday morning. We didn't feel like getting up early since the long drive after work had us going to sleep at midnight. Then the hike was a bit stop and start since Roscoe dog has to do business twice in the first half hour. Gotta bury it or pack it out, that's the Leave No Trace way!
The trail was pretty flat, a nice wide roadbed for the most part. We got to Tom's Creek, where Mark filled up his water bladder and Roscoe ran around destroying sticks and I tried to get some good shots. It was a nice spot where trails intersect and before long I heard people coming so I put Roscoe on the leash. It wasn't just people, though. Two horses came from one way and a large group of young men with a dog from the other. Roscoe's little mind was blown. He has an irresistible urge to herd horses by running in front of them and barking in their face whenever he sees them. Not cool, dog. I pulled him off trail into the woods and gave him lots of treats until they passed. Another two horses and two dogs showed up a few minutes later, but they were stopping here for lunch. Luckily Mark was done filling up and we were able to move on. There was a second creek crossing soon after the first.
|Second creek crossing.|
The trail soon headed off to the right, away from the horse trail and up a steep grade. Mark was fully loaded at this point and the hill was tough. Then the MST joined up with the wide roadbed again. The large group had gone the way we had, and we soon saw them stopped right on the roadbed having lunch. I was a little worried about passing the other dog with Roscoe. He just doesn't like strange dogs and in the woods it seems to be worse. Just before we got to them, the MST veered to the right. Follow the white blazes!
|Typical Roscoe - running ahead and looking back to make sure you're coming. Humans are so slow.|
This was the kind of trail I like, a nice singletrack where you feel like you're in the wilderness. It was a steep part, though. There were a few switch backs, but mostly this part was UP, UP, UP! Once you get up to the ridge, there isn't much room for camping. It's just steep down hills on either side. Saturday was pretty cloudy, but we were below cloud level there. The views are good here in winter. In the summer you probably couldn't see much through the trees.
|Thick rhododendron and a storm ahead.|
I figured we'd hike until 3 or 4 pm and stop when we found a good campsite, but we weren't seeing many. There was also a storm looming ahead and we weren't sure when or if it would hit us. We decided to scout ahead a little. Freya and Mark took a break and watched all the packs, while me and Ian went ahead to Woods Mountain to check for campsites. There were just so much rhododendron everywhere, combined with the steepness on both sides, it makes it hard to find a spot. 3/4 mile of hiking and nothing promising, we turned around and headed back. On the way down, we noticed a rhododendron patch where there were a couple of flat spots big enough for tents, not far off the trail. It'll do. We ended Saturday watching the sun set through thick twisting rhododendron. Plus, we discovered why Mark's pack was so heavy! Fresh veggies! Mark offered us burritos to help lighten his load for the next day and we accepted. I ate both my dinner and a burrito with avocado. Yum! I don't know that I've ever eaten so well on a backpacking trip.
|Tents in rhododendron.|