There is a tradition for ‘Rat Patrol‘ to take some time off every year and go hiking sometime around his birthday. Last year, him and I hiked the Appalachian Trail from Devil Fork Gap to Allen Gap–a 20-mile stretch over Flint, Coldspring, and Viking Mountains–all part of the Bald Mountain Chain of the Appalachians (see ‘Birthday Hike 2008‘ in the photo gallery). This year, despite having an opportunity to hike the southern section of the Smoky Mountains with some friends, he decided to hike a 40-mile stretch of the Virginia Highlands from ‘Fox Creek’ to Damascus.
Inspired by the trek up to Big Bald, and camping in the meadow above 5300-feet in elevation in July, I decided to embark upon another adventure for August. It had been 13 years since the last time I had hiked up Snowbird Mountain, just north of the Great Smoky National Park, and after much consideration, decided to go there anyway.
I have always considered the hill-climb off the Pigeon River up to the summit of Snowbird Mountain rather challenging. It is much easier to walk that section of trail from north to south, beginning at Max Patch, but never-the-less, I decided to park a car at Standing Bear Farm (on the gravel road that the Appalachian Trail crosses) about a mile from I-40, and the GSNP. I had heard rumors of rogue bears and closed trails in the park, and would have felt more comfortable with a trail partner; not only would it have been nice to have someone to talk to, but sharing equipment can lower pack weights significantly. But, since none were available, I found myself climbing that steep 5-mile hill alone, missing all my ‘Hairnt-fest’ trail-friends.