Thursday, April 19, 2012
Wesser Bald & Wayah Bald
Wesser Bald & Cowee Bald Lookout Towers – 2/21/12 – 5 Miles
One more night in our cozy cabin and a half-day available for a hike. Because of time constraints, we chose to hike on the AT to Wesser Bald lookout tower from Tellico Gap. By trail, you can reach Tellico Gap by continuing northbound (NOBO) on the AT from Wayah Bald for about 10.5 miles. For us, we chose a long tentative drive on unpaved roads snaking up through the mountains, always fun.
At Tellico Gap we chatted with three hikers that we had passed on our return hike from Wayah Bald yesterday – two were thru-hikers and one was a friend along for the first couple of weeks. The friend was waiting on her ride back to civilization.
The temperature was noticeably colder today, more wind, more clouds moving around, but still a great day to be outside – aren’t they all? Nice trail, good switchbacks – the AT is well maintained here. Here’s a lovely fern and galax arrangement.
The distance to the tower is listed at 1.9 miles, which we covered in about 35 minutes – can this be right? We didn’t see anyone on the trail today.
Wesser Bald Tower is a steel frame platform without a roof, not as solid as the stone Wayah Bald, and we could feel a little swaying going on as we climbed the stairs and marveled at the views in all directions. The original tower was wooden and the current one once included a live-in cabin, staffed until the ‘60’s. In the years after that a fire destroyed much of the tower. In 1993 the wooden observation deck was added to create what we saw today. When the tower was originally constructed, the peak was a bald but the trees have reclaimed their space. Peter Barr’s book gives more fascinating information about this historic landmark.
Jim offered the alternative of me continuing on the AT down to the Nantahala Outdoor Center if he hiked back to the car and drove to meet me, a very tempting proposition, but I elected to hike back with him and go look for the Cowee Bald lookout tower from Peter’s book. I didn’t have a detailed trail map and not a perfect memory of distance or trail conditions – plus the point of the trip was to spend time with Jim.
I’m glad I declined, learning later that it’s 6.5 miles steeply downhill to the NOC (I was guessing 4 miles) so it would have taken way more time than we had. A good reminder to not rely on memory alone, but always have a map.
We took the old jeep road trail from Wesser Bald back down to Tellico Gap, only .9 miles of steepness, and then went in search of the Cowee Bald lookout tower discussed in Peter Barr’s book, cruising back roads, interpreting written directions and the North Carolina Gazateer. Again we were exploring deep in unpaved territory. It took more time to find it than we really had to spare, but I was determined to check this one off the list (yes, there is a fire tower “challenge").
Cowee Lookout is not glamorous, sharing a bald with lots of other towers for communi- cations, etc. The gate was open and we could have driven right up to the foot of the tower, but we elected to walk the half-mile. The tower has a live-in cabin similar to the one that used to be on Wesser Bald’s tower. We could only get part way up the steel steps to a locked trap door, so no poking around in the cabin.
A nice view, but I couldn’t pick out all the peaks that Peter lists in his description.
It was a working day for two guys on one of the communication towers, climbing steel rigging like it was nothing (look near the center of the photo). It must have been cold up there.
The fire service road via which I intended to make a quick exit was closed, so we had to crawl back the long way down the mountain. In Franklin we grabbed a quick late lunch at Ms. Lois’ Restaurant (delicious beef vegetable soup, worth a stop).
Got home in time for my book club’s wine tasting party at 7:00 p.m. Life is good to me.
"During one of my treks through Afghanistan, we lost our corkscrew. We were compelled to live on food and water for several days." ~W.C. Fields in "My Little Chickadee"