Appalachian Trail to Big Bald

Sherri and I

2/22/20

Sherri picked this hike. I recently saw other hikers who have done this one in the snow. It looked like a good one. Turns out this is the one my husband wanted to backpack to and camp last summer. My scary storm experience on top of Roan Mountain prevented me from wanting to camp on a bald again. I was still shell shocked so to speak.

We arrived at Sam’s Gap at 9 am. It was 24 degrees. There were 3 cars in the parking lot. It was 24 degrees. We headed up the trail which goes along I-26 and soon as we made the turn it was covered in snow and lots of it. It was beautiful and cold! Luckily it was all uphill which means we warmed up in no time!

The trail kept going up most of the way. There were only a few footprints to follow but the trail was blazed really well. It was one of those trails that goes around rather than over. That means dark side-cold, light side warmer.

We were loving the snow and the views. The birds were singing and the wood peckers were pecking. The farther we went the deeper the snow was. We were beginning to wonder how deep it would be up higher. The one set of footprints appeared to be a runner. The footprints were farther apart. We walked as best we could in the deep footsteps. Sherri called it post hole-ing. 🤣 This was the deepest snow we encountered thankfully.

Deep

Since I grew up in New York I brought along one sure fire way to keep my feet warm and dry. Bread bags! I stopped about here to put them on. Almost a little to late. I put my feet in the bags and back in my shoes like we did as kids. There was no way I could hike 14 miles in boots so this is my only other option. It worked great.

It’s so gorgeous out here. We took a selfie in front of the first view of the bald. It’s a long way up there. Notice we’ve shed the jackets and gloves.

The trail turned and went downward. This meant we were going back up. The ups were a killer! I think hiking in snow is hard like walking in deep sand. It takes a lot more muscle.

Shortly we came across the runner. It was a 50 ish guy wearing shorts! We was slowing running up the hill we were going down. He said we couldn’t have picked a better day to do this trail. Yikes! I gotta say we had 3 miles left to the top and I was already getting tired and he was running back!

The elevation at the parking is 3750 and on top of the bald 5516. That’s over 1700 ft elevation. We passed a spot where it looked like someone camped last night. We soon passed them coming back down. So a lot of the footprints were theirs. Other than those there were 2 more people coming down. We got passed by an AT through hiker. He was starting early we thought. This area is over 300 miles from Springer GA.

About 2 miles from the top is another view of the top. Sherri was like “that’s where we’re going? It’s so far!” That was the climb talking! We were both tired. See that white area on top? That’s it.

We kept going it rounded a hill and There were 2 houses right off the trail. Wolf Laurel no doubt. There was one guy at the top with his 3 dogs. The thru hiker was no where in sight. The bald is a small one compared to Roan Mountain. Turns out there is a gravel road that goes right to it! What?

Except for all the houses at Wolf Laurel it was amazing views.

I think it’s about 1 pm and we have over 6 miles down. Yay down. I surely have a love hate relationship with ups. Love the thought of it, hate doing it, love it when it’s over, hate that I whine about it! I believe that sums it up. 😁

We passed a man and 3 kids all rested nice and not tired they came out of Wolf Laurel. I wanted to ask him for a ride to our car. Sherri said no. 😳 I was just kidding. 🤞

It was a whole new trail coming down. Amazingly most of the snow had melted except behind the trees and in the dark sections. What it left behind was a soaking wet muddy mess of a trail. Really glad I’m wearing those bread bags! We slipped and slid down most of the trail. It’s amazing how much snow was gone. I slid hard one time and grabbed a tree and stopped within inches of a completely wet muddy butt to walk down in. Phew!

Same view of the bald minus the snow

We passed 2 girls backpacking up to camp, a young couple and their dog and a lady training her pup and that was it. I would think this is a heavily trafficked trail in the summer. It’s very well maintained, not rocks and roots like most.

We got back to the car just after 5pm. It was an 8 hour trip. 14 miles! It was now 48 degrees. It’s been a long time since we’ve done this kind of mileage and never in the snow.

It was an amazing day. One were sure not to forget. The snow was the icing on the cake.

We both had pizza on the brain. We headed back to the store on this exit and each got 2 large pieces of pepperoni and a cold soda for the ride. For me there is nothing better than an ice cold Coca Cola after a hike. 🥤

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