Cole Mountain (George Washington National Forest)
Today I ventured out to the Mount Pleasant National Scenic area, a park that I have been wanting to try out for the past several months. I found out yesterday that today is a federal holiday and decided to use my free time to head on up there. I have also wanting to get started in backpacking, so I picked up a pelican case for my camera and a roomy Osprey pack and headed onto my favorite road in Virginia, route 60.
The drive to the trailhead was interesting. It was much more paved than I expected it to be, then it suddenly became the bumpiest gravel road I’ve ever driven on. It was fun! I found the parking lot, got my things ready, and then checked my GPS for the trailhead. Turns out I forgot to add all the points and tracks to my map completely! I found a kind man who pointed me in the right direction. I got started on the trail moving pretty quickly early in the afternoon.
The trail starts off very wide - I guess horses can use this one? I’m used to smaller trails so the roominess was appreciated! The scenery changed quite quickly several different times. There were neat sections consisting of only pine trees, which I always think are really pretty. Then the trail became a very neat campsite - complete with huge fire pits and plenty of seating. The area was pretty clear which is a treat in the Virginia mountains. Being that it wasn’t what I was looking for, I continued on. The next several miles of the trail were uneventful. There were several sets of stone walls that apparently were used to keep pigs contained. I imagine they’re over 100 years old. Then I stumbled into an Appalachian trail campground, which was my first time seeing one. The springs nearby were a neat addition. I then made my way onto the Appalachian trail itself, which was very exciting. I’ve never actually hiked on it before, so I can finally say I have! It was narrow with lots of switchbacks, I always expected it to be easygoing and wide.
I finally saw some grass on the hill and knew I was close to the top of Cole Mountain. I made my way over the small peak and there it was… a big grassy hill! This is what I came for - grass. It’s very hard to find something so pretty and open anywhere! I stopped at some rocks, grabbed a snack, and pulled out my camera to try to get some shots. I left a bit later thinking I had seen it all. I was quite wrong… I crossed over another small hill and there it was… an even bigger grassy hill! I had to fumble with my bag all over again to get my camera out to take more pictures. This hill was HUGE! It was also pretty quiet, with the exception of a small family taking pictures. This has got to be the best place I have ever found to look at the stars from.
I was pretty tired by the time I got to the edge of this grassy hill (about 5 miles into the hike at this point) and decided to head back to my car. I followed the Appalachian trail out back to the parking lot. This section was only about a mile long and a fairly easy hike to Cole Mountain. I liked the Hotel trail a lot and it was a good place to get started with my backpack, but if I wanted to bring friends here, I would just take them up the shorter way to see the hills.
Overall it was a very fun day in the Mount Pleasant National Scenic area. I highly recommend you check it out when the weather is nice and sunny. There are several other great things to find in the woods nearby as well; such as Panther Falls, Staton Creek Falls, and the Lynchburg Reservoir.