Hiking Cole Mountain near Buena Vista–that’s pronounced Byoona Vista, BTW, Virginia is an extraordinary experience. The fire of November 2016 is long put out. However, the black ground, lack of fall leaf ground cover and the charred trunks of trees attest to its ferocity.
Yet, I can truly say that it has done a world of good. The floor of the forest is teaming now with low grass, flowers, and undergrowth. There are mounds of brand new baby pines poking out of the black charred earth where the pine cone fell. One sprout will eventually dominate the others and become a towering evergreen. The amount of flowers is astonishing for this time of year because the thick brush was burnt off leaving space for the more tender plants. The views through the forest are just as dramatic. Now that the undergrowth is burnt away, it looks like a set from a movie.
We hiked the route suggested on Hiking Upward (always a go-to source of good info). Hiking down the “Hotel” trail you get a sense of dark forest–evergreens pine needles. Ascending, we finally walk into a clearing on a ridge that has several campsites widely spaced. Hiking Upward calls it one of the” prettiest back country campsites in the Blue Ridge” and we agree. We then passed another nice camping area on a small creek about .3 miles from the intersection with the AT with a shelter and water.
Once on the AT, we turn back north. Now the trail heads up to the ridge and–Voilá–you are in a meadow with vistas for mile and miles. It is said that it is like Scotland or Switzerland. (Maybe, extended hiking in both of those are on the bucket list!!).
We are trying to get the pug, Bilbo, used to his Ruffit backpack so we can increase our mileage. We put him in about 10 minutes before a stop for lunch so he can provide some positive reinforcement when we let him out (see picture) He can hike 7-8 in cool weather but more mileage or heat starts stressing him.
Anyway, we stop for lunch in the meadows, and proceed up and down the AT. it is a completely different trail. more like the rocky, steep trails we are used to in this area. Clearly most folks walk up that, get to the meadows and then return the same way.
They are missing a lot by not doing the clockwise loop suggested by Hiking Upward. It provides many different ecosystems and a more leisurely upward hike. This would be a perfect backpacking trip for late Fall through early Spring. But it would be cold. Jill was cold today with the high winds and the sun behind the clouds. Great to pair with the Mt. Pleasant hike the week before.
Keep on Puggin’…..