“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.” – John Muir
Winter is such a lovely time to take a hike in these hills. There is nothing like a crisp, clear winter’s day with a thermos full of hot chocolate in my pack. The sky is incredibly blue and the hills turn a deep azure blue, mauve and purple color that is unique to this season of the year.
The forest is so open as all of the vegetation has fallen back. It is easy to walk without a trail. You can just wander around in the forest and enjoy the quiet.
We often get periods of 60 to 70-degree weather in the winter. These days are such gifts and they call us out of doors with short-sleeved shirts and grinning faces. We often see wildlife such as deer, wild turkey, fox, coyote and even an occasional elk on our hikes.
The AT is a great place to hike in the winter as there are fewer hikers this time of year. It is possible to walk a great distance and encounter no one. And, yet, it is a spectacular time to hike because of the views. The AT runs along the ridges here on the border between NC and TN. In fact, at the point where our trail meets the AT, you can stand with one foot in each state.
You can also access the AT along several points in Hot Springs. The pictures from this post were taken along the AT on the access point off of 25/70 just the other side of Hot Springs. You simply go through Hot Springs and as you are coming up the mountain on the way toward Marshall, you turn left after you go under the underpass. There is a parking place at the gated road that crosses back over 25/70. If the gate is open and you prefer, you can drive up to Mill Ridge from here and access the AT up at the top. But, we like hiking north up over Rich Mountain. The sun warms that side of the mountain in the afternoon and makes for a nice hike. This day we were fortunate enough to witness the almost full moon rising as the sun was setting.