Saturday, February 2, 2013

Low Gap Trail

Low Gap Trail
New Miles Completed: 2.9
Total Miles Hiked: ~10
1-2 February 2013

We had been trying to put together a Boy Scout backpacking trip for a month.  We had one scheduled for last weekend, but then an ice-storm hit and the park roads were all closed.  So we re-scheduled for this weekend, on trails up at Newfound Gap...  Then MORE snow was forecast for this weekend so we scrambled to make alternate plans.  That plan was going out from Cosby Campground on the Low Gap trail, up to the Appalachian Trail to stay at the Cosby Knob shelter, and because of snow and ice that's what we ended up doing.

Our scout crew

So normally one would just pick up the Low Gap trail right at the Cosby Campground.  Unless, of course, it's winter and the Cosby Campground is closed.  In that case you have to park 1.7 miles down the road and walk up to the campground to get to the trailhead.  And by the way, the backcountry office may forget to mention this minor detail when you make your reservation.

The Low Gap trail from Cosby up to Low Gap and the Appalachian Trail is fairly short, but also constantly uphill.  You gain about 2000 feet in elevation over the 2.9 miles so it's fairly relentless. Add in a layer of snow and it can be quite a challenging hike.

That said, it's also a beautiful hike.  The trail follows Cosby Creek much of the way as it leads up the mountain.  It's a forest of hemlock and rhododendron along the creek which rushes over numerous little waterfalls.  The sun was shining brightly and the snow just made everything even more magical.

Cosby Creek

View down the trail from one of the many stream crossings

Given the elevation gain and the snow we made fairly slow progress, so it was starting to approach sunset when we finally rolled into Low Gap and the junction with AT.

Low Gap:  junction with Appalachian Trail

At that point we were all pretty spent.  Luckily it was "only 0.8 miles" up to the shelter.  Unfortunately, it's about another 500 feet of elevation gain over that 0.8 miles.  We were quite happy to finally get to the Cosby Knob shelter and find some friendly faces and a fire already going.

trail sign for the Cosby Knob shelter

We stayed the night and slept in late - it was a COLD night.  After a leisurely breakfast we packed up and headed back down the way we had come.  

Our Boy Scout crew getting ready to head back down the trail.

For a couple of the scouts this was their first real backpacking trip.  Talk about trial by fire (or ice)!  The return trip was considerably quicker, and though the sun was shrouded by clouds the day was warmer.  We made it back home safe and sound in the late afternoon.  I was reminded just how much I love winter backpacking.  Hopefully this won't be the last winter trip this year.

Til next time, happy hiking!