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Hiking Cold Mountain

Don’t you just want to spread you arms out and like an eagle, soar off this mountain peak?

This weekend, we completed our annual fall hike. We hiked to the top of Cold Mountain, and it was one of the best hikes I’ve been on in ages.  We took Shadow with us.  She loves to hike!

Hiking girls….your humble blogger and her faithful companion,  Shadow the German shepherd

Each fall, John plans the hike, but this year he announced the desired date but never told me where we were going. After we finished the hike and were driving back towards Appomattox, we passed the Appalachian Trail head just a few minutes from the start of the Cold Mountain hike. “That’s where I thought we would go this year,” he said, pointing to the other trail parking right off Highway 60 and I had to laugh – great minds think alike!  The Cold Mountain trail actually merged with the Appalachian Trail for a considerable distance, so he got his wish, too.

The hike begins at the Mount Pleasant parking area in the George Washington National Forest in Amelia County. It’s a busy, crowded spot – I was surprised at how many people were camping and hiking. It also happened to be Boy Scout weekend, and I felt quite safe after passing several groups of polite, respectful Scouts on trail. I said to John, “Well, if either of us falls and twists an ankle, we have about two dozen kids working on their First Aid badges here to help us home!”

One group had us cracking up laughing. We were hiking on a narrow, steep section of trail, with a sheer drop to our right and boulders to our left. Not much room for two adults and a big German shepherd to pass a group of Boy Scouts and two Scout Masters coming in the opposite direction.

The Scout Master halted the group and was teaching them proper hiking etiquette. He had all the boys step to the side, carefully making room for us, and then he said, “And what do we say to warn hikers that we are on the trail.” With a loud roar, a dozen pre-teen boys shouted, “HELLO, HIKERS!” They sounded so much like Ed Norton from the famous Honeymooners skit “greeting the ball” (“Helloooo, ball!” when playing golf ) that we burst into peals of laughter.  The boys loved Shadow and she wanted to go back with THEM thanks to all the pets she received as we hiked by.  When we got to the top of Cold Mountain Meadow and were enjoying the view, we suddenly heard floating up from the trail a faint and ghostly shout, “HELLOOOO HIKERS” and we broke out laughing all over again.

The trail directions which I linked to at the top of this entry have you hike the long way up, but the Scouts and many other people told me later you could actually start on the other side – and walk about a mile uphill, then get to the top of Cold Mountain, to the meadows, which is really where you want to be.

Here you’ll see why – this waited for us at the top – an expanse of meadows, with an almost perfectly 360 degree view all around us, gazing down to the Blue Ridge and around.

Along the way, you can see signs of a former homestead.  A beautiful stone wall, broken in spots but still visible, reminded me of hiking in New England. We also found strands of barbed wire still attached to tree – again, evidence of a homestead.

 

An old stone wall along the trail

The hike was strenuous, no doubt about it.  Once we returned to the parking area, we explored the area around and found several more trails to try in the spring and next fall. By the time we got to Appomattox and the Chinese restaurant where we ordered dinner, my pedometer stated we’d walked 9.95 miles – and I knew that when we set out on the trail, I already had a little under a half mile on it already from just walking the dog that morning.  So we did indeed get a good workout!

I’m noticing that I get tired more easily on trail. My joints held up well this year, especially my knee.  I’d had very bad arthritis and wear problems with my left knee, which thankfully my doctor was able to advise me on ways to help it heal without surgery or drugs.  Good man. It worked!  I was able to hike with only minimal discomfort afterwards.  I am getting very winded on the uphill portions of the trail now.  We were both very tired so it must have been a strenuous hike.  Even Shadow came home and dropped into her corner behind my chair in the living room where she sleeps when we watch television at night, and she was so tired she didn’t even want to come upstairs to her soft, comfortable dog bed to sleep.

When I hike and I get tired, or I feel like I can’t go on, I think of my parents. Saturday would have been my dad’s 86th birthday.  I wish he were here to see all the good things in my life now; I think he would have been proud of me. More importantly, as I huffed and puffed up a really steep section of trail, it suddenly occurred to me that when my mom was my age, she would not have been able to do this hike.  Multiple sclerosis made her unable to walk without a cane by the time she was in her early forties and she was in a wheelchair not long after that.

So more than ever, I gave thanks for the hike, thanks for the sore feet and the sore muscles, and thanks to God for views like this to carry me through my days:

 

Cold Mountain. Recommended hike!

Last year’s hike up Bluff Mountain, and the things we found there:  Little Ottie Cline Powell
And the 2009 hike, which gave the word “strenuous” new meaning:  Hiking the Appalachian Trail

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