Tag Archives: Mount Pleasant

Old Hotel Trail off the Appalachian Trail

It’s nestled in the 7500 plus acres of the Mount Pleasant National Scenic Area and the even larger George Washington & Thomas Jefferson National Forest (about 1.8 MILLION square miles.) It is part of the Shenandoah and Blue Ridge Mountains and has miles and miles of trails. So yesterday, I headed to Mount Pleasant trailhead and decided to trod a new trial. Between the Mount Pleasant and AT (Appalachian Trail) is the Little Hotel (aka Old Hotel) Trail. The 3 miles takes you from Hog Gap Parking to Cow Gap right near the open meadows of Cole Mountain. The trail is like a dividing line between Mount Pleasant and the AT part on Cole Mount.

To be clear – I saw no cows and no hogs. I did see dears and bugs and birds – but no farm animals.

The name apparently doesn’t come from any hotel that existed – but from the name of a farmer who many trekkers used his old abandoned house for overnight respites. Even today, the AT has a sleeping hut and privy where the trails connect.

The trail is filled with diversity and beauty. It begins with a mile long, rut-deep, bouncy fire road. This was why I bought the FJ Cruiser in the first place. From the small off the off-road parking spots, you immediately hit the forest filled with acres and acres of ferns that were closing in the wind. This trail seemed to be rarely walked. I guess most enjoy the more picturesque Mt. Pleasant or the shorter route to Cole Mount.

From the dancing ferns, I immediately hit a deep and dark patch of pine trees. I felt like I was in an eerie nightmare. It was more than the pines, it was also the sky. I checked the weather and it was like 4% chance of rain – stupid weather app. For the next mile, it sprinkled ever so lightly … then it gave a solid soaking for about 30 minutes. But 30 minutes was spread out as the now wet trees begin to drip, drip, drip. By the end of the 6 miles, much of me was soaked.

A good point is my new Merrell Moab 3s held up their water resistance and my feet were completely dry. I do love my Merrell’s.

At one point in the trail, I came upon a slew (?), a bushy area filled with swallows. About 20 to 30 swallows took flight and circled me. I knew I was on their turf so I did not linger.

In about half way – I came across a wall – more of a cattle or hog wall – which I know dates back to the days this areas was actually used for cattle and hog drives and containment.

As you get closer to the apex, the trail begins to have a few switchbacks. Now I could’ve gone off trail and cut through but it was the switchbacks that led to the beautiful overlooks – though with the rain and the after rain mist – the view was limited. The lesson here though is we often look for shortcuts but if we do, we might miss some of the best stuff in life.

As you get closer to the apex, the trail begins to have a few switchbacks. Now I could’ve gone off trail and cut through but it was the switchbacks that led to the beautiful overlooks – though with the rain and the after rain mist – the view was limited. The lesson here though is we often look for shortcuts but if we do, we might miss some of the best stuff in life.

The true delight of this hike is Cole Mountain. Cole Mountain has a huge meadow – or heather – and it is the largest mountain top meadow on the east coast that has both an eastern and western side of the mountain. This meadow is astounding and warrants the best and most romantic picnics any outdoors peeps can plan.

After a 1.5 mile trek on the downward slope of the AT, I arrived back at the trusty FJ that was waiting too take me back home.

For the first day of Fall – this was a good day.

Anxiety Attack

Her body was tense. Her hand squeezed the life out of my hand. She showed fear and looked at me like I was crazy and sending her to her demise. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me back up.

Yesterday, Lisa was off work for a Memorial Day work holiday. So we took advantage of the time together, and having little responsibility, we decided to venture out into the world. Granny Bees was closed … which left breakfast in limbo. So we went to Courthouse Cafe in Rustburg. From there, we headed north and headed to George Washington National Forest and I was going to drive around a bit. I choose to go to Mount Pleasant trail and Cole Mountain, also known as Cold Mountain.

I once read this location, the saddle meadow, is unique as the east coast’s largest open meadow on a mountain that has panoramic views to the east and to the west. I wasn’t going to do the whole trail, just the short AT section from car to meadow. But getting to the AT parking spot up in the forest is not that easy.

Some background info … Lisa is a city girl. Hiking to her is from her office to the Starbucks down in the lobby. Her last job was in part of the office tower of the Dallas Galleria shopping center. That’s her environment. From our honeymoon, I knew then, hiking and outdoor was not her forte. I live with this and don’t push. And as far as driving, roads need lights, pavement, lines, and all the needed extras.

Here comes the anxiety. To get to where we were to start, it required a high clearance vehicle, possibly a 4-wheel drive, which I have. So up the rained out, gulleyed, rocky, choppy, and zig-zag fire road to the trail head. We jerked and bounced like a bobble-head on the dash of a low-rider with hydraulics in full motion. Lisa was freaking. Thinking we would breakdown in the middle of a forest miles from everything society offers – no help from anywhere – never tasting her Honey-Vanilla-Cinnamon-Latte-Skinny ever again.

And then I made her hike … egads. We didn’t come prepared (only one water bottle, not the best shoes, but we were only doing a 2 mile in and out total) … so we ventured out … and we made it. And she survived the hike and the ride too. And at the top, in the meadow, she stood there in awe of the beauty, the splendor, the views of God’s creation displayed in wonder. Her only comment … It was worth it!

Her only comment … It was worth it!

That statement, that philosophy or world view is powerful. We go through so much junk, so much anxiety so much struggle … and I get that. But in the end, we need to remember it will be worth it. Keep our eyes focus on the goals (school degree, work project, God honoring marriage, work out goals, hikes, and more).

Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Remain vigilant. Stay the course. No matter what you’re going through, look to where it is taking you. Keep the end in mind … and I hope you will say one day … it was worth it.