Near Cow Camp Gap Shelter
The Greatest Day Hiker (aka Gigi) and Matthew near Cow Camp Gap Shelter, 1/7/12.
It's easy to make a mistake with certain nine-year-olds, in this case making casual mention to grandson Matthew of a spot off the route of this hike where the gorge is allegedly so deep the sun never shines, where there's nothing much down there but snakes and old-growth trees.
"No, Matthew, we're not going down there, I'm just telling you about it because your dad talks about it and may have gone down there. And maybe will take you sometime."
"But you'll show me where you'd go down?"
"Hey, that looks pretty steep going down there."
And so on, for a mile or so until we got to the shelter and I was pretty severely admonished for having missed the spot where you'd go down.
Only I hadn't, since the guidebook, once we looked at it, says the spot is below the spring right there by the shelter.
Still, the young hiker enjoyed his lunch on the giant picnic table at Cow Camp Gap Shelter, and looked forward to the next promised feature, this really cool deja-vu that the AT does on its way up to Cold Mountain, wherein the trail goes out to the eastern edge and a rock formation with a view, then goes along, switchbacks again and goes out to a fairly identical eastern edge rock formation with a view.
And then there was the treeless, 4,000-foot Cold Mountain. Which we all took time to appreciate, with its near-mile of open views in every direction, before heading down the north face and back to the parking area.
Old Hotel/Appalachian Trail loop in Mt. Pleasant National Scenic Area. 6.2 miles
How to get there: From I-81 Exit 188 East, through Buena Vista to left on Va. 634 and then a right on Va. 755, which becomes unpaved FR 48, to the parking area.