|Long Mountain Wayside
|Dark Pine Forest on the Old Hotel Trail
From the summit, I followed the Appalachian Trail north to the parking lot above, which is on Wiggins Spring Road - a Forest Service road. Access to this spot from U.S. 60 is well maintained and well marked by the Forest Service. A short walk down the road brought me to the Old Hotel Trail, which is a 3.5 mile trail back to the A.T.
|Wolf Tree on the Old Hotel Trail
The Old Hotel Trail passes a giant Wolf Tree - a White Oak, in an area that, if it was near a spring, would be the single greatest campsite in Virginia. I have camped there with my son's Boy Scout Troop (Link).
After hugging the side of Cold Mountain, the Old Hotel Trail crosses a stream then marches past the Cow Camp Shelter - one of the A.T. thru hiking shelters - before returning to the A.T. at Cow Camp Gap.
While climbing Bald Knob again on the A.T. returning to my car, I could hear a fighter jet streaking through the sky - something that is a pretty regular occurrence down this way. The dog would freeze at the sound, and I would scour the now cloudy sky. I briefly saw the plane at one point, banking sideways around a mountain at a lower elevation than we were hiking.
Near the top of Bald Knob I came across wreckage from an earlier training mission. The current AT Guide to Central Virginia says the remains are from a Navy Fighter jet that crashed in October, 1978, killing two occupants. The guide also states, “Physical evidence of the crash is now barely discernible.” You can judge from the photo below whether that statement is accurate.
|Cow Camp Shelter