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Yellow Mountain December 3, 2009

Posted by Jenny in hiking.
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Yes, another fire tower hike!

There were a couple of reasons why I decided to conquer the 5127′ summit of Yellow Mountain in the Nantahala National Forest.  First of all, it would make a good moderate leg-stretcher at approximately 10 miles, 3000 vertical (up and back).  Secondly, it would take me fairly close to the area that I wrote about in my “Escape of the locomotive raiders” posts.  And finally, it wouldn’t be a very long drive for me.

Plus, I had all the information in front of me in the form of Peter J. Barr’s Hiking North Carolina’s Lookout Towers.  (Honestly, I’m not just trying to give Peter another plug—it really is the book that is most relevant for this outing!)

The vertical profile of this hike is a bit odd.  You climb in three separate increments of approximately 1000′ each, two on the way to the summit (up to Shortoff Mountain, then down, then up again to the Yellow Mountain summit), and one on the way back (down to the gap, then back up Shortoff again).

From my current home in Brevard, it took me only a little more than an hour to get there.  Most of the drive is along Highway 64, through Cashiers and then most of the way to Highlands.  I have to say that I was completely grossed out by all of the development that has occurred along that stretch of 64.  It’s okay going southwest until somewhere near Lake Toxaway, and then it’s one stupid development after another.  I knew from Peter’s writeup that I would also have to brace myself for recent development right near the summit of Yellow Mountain.  I could tell I was getting into Stupidland when I started seeing a lot of giant, lumbering “luxury SUVs.”

It was a perfect temperature for hiking, getting up around 60 degrees, a bit overcast.  As I climbed to Shortoff Mountain, I saw a stump that someone had cut into a gameboard, not quite right for chess, but who knows?

Checkers or chess, anyone?

It was a moderate descent into Yellow Mountain Gap, through open hardwoods with rhododendron growing here and there.

Looking south from Yellow Mountain Gap

The aroma of oak leaves was strong in the warm midday sun.  I climbed up toward Yellow Mountain, and I came to the place where a road for a “high-end” development practically touches the trail.

The road comes very close to the trail

The road comes very close to the trail

I think many hikers just go over to the road at that point, because the trail above there is quite overgrown.

Laurel overhangs the trail

I got up to the top and had wonderful views in every direction.  I was pleasantly surprised that I couldn’t actually see the houses of the new “high-end development” from the fire tower.  Looking north, I could see the stateline ridge in the Smokies (the four bumps of LeConte make that identification so easy).  I could see in every direction, way off to the flatlands of South Carolina, and over to the rolling Nantahala Mountains.  Those I wrote about in my post, “Escape of the locomotive raiders (Part 2).”  When I looked back at Shortoff Mountain, I saw that it has an interesting bowl.

This shows the bowl of Shortoff to the left, and the ridge that leads from the trail's starting point at Cole Gap

On my way back, I ran into the only people I saw all day.  The first was a guy running over the top of Shortoff Mountain—maybe a regular fitness outing for him.  Then a woman with two friendly dogs.

It was a fine, pleasant outing on a late November day.

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Comments»

1. kaslkaos - December 5, 2009

Re: the stump. May have been neither. If it was near the trail, cross cuts can be a means of getting the stump to naturally decompose at a faster rate, but exotic woodland checkers sounds a lot more fun.

Jenny - December 5, 2009

That’s interesting, and it makes a lot of sense. But, like you, I think the idea of checkers is more fun!

2. elizabethmy - December 5, 2009

I would love to see a picture a the four bumps of LeConte! Your description of the development was right on. Stupid.

Jenny - December 5, 2009

Thanks, Elizabeth! My description of the developments (and the giant SUVs, which somehow remind me of aluminum muffins) could offend someone, I guess, but it’s good to stick my neck out every now and then.

The four bumps of LeConte are Cliff Top, High Point, Myrtle Point, and West Point. If I find a good picture in the public domain or take one myself, I’ll post it.


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