Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Wesser Creek Trail & Wesser Bald Tower

Wesser Creek Trail – 1/21/18 – 8.6 Miles

A very cold day again, some of the weekend crowd opted out and others opted in for a hike to the Wesser Bald lookout tower.  More than one way to get there, but we decided on an out-and-back up Wesser Creek Trail – shortest mileage and (the deciding factor) lunch at Jimmy Mac’s in Bryson City: priorities.

Wesser Bald Lookout Tower is really a wooden viewing platform on steel supports that replaced the working fire lookout of years ago. The “bald” itself is tree-covered. In November 2016, a terrible time period of forest fires in western North Carolina, the woods surrounding Wesser Bald were engulfed by the Tellico Fire, but the tower escaped damage because flames were low as they consumed the underbrush on the mountains.

As you can guess, Wesser Creek Trail traces Wesser Creek upstream, crisscrossing several times before settling on the right-hand side to hug the mountain.  The going was steady and steep, gaining about 2,700 feet in 4.3 miles on a pretty skinny footpath. This trail was once part of the Appalachian Trail, but now it doesn’t see as much use as its reroute along the ridgeline down to the Nantahala Outdoor Center. [The NOC is a much better place to end the day than a remote gravel lot.]

Wesser Creek

Today’s conditions were icy and then wet. As the temperature increased, the mud thawed, and I slipped several times.  After one particularly close call, my chicken-self took over and I slowed down and contemplated each step.

In shady areas the frozen seeps that may not have been noticeable from a distance now glistened like white lace. 

 This cove and its normally small cascade was transformed into a massive ice wall

At the junction with the AT, we turned south and kept right on climbing to the Wesser Bald tower – in fact, the last few hundred yards felt like the steepest yet. I was the last one up the ladder for a few minutes of panoramic mountain majesty. Even in the depths of cold January the ridges of brown, gray and blue are breathtaking.

After a quick group photo everyone retreated back down the ladder.

I did not enjoy the return hike, struggling between walking carefully down the muddy slopes and keeping up with my fellow hikers. I failed on both counts, with two more slip-and-falls, and again I was the last to arrive at the parking lot. All in all, we met our goals of hiking to the tower and back AND enjoying a late lunch at Jimmy Mac’s.  Glad I wasn’t driving home.

“Every mile is two in winter.” ~George Herbert