First, I have to say that I love this trail! We started out on the Appalachian Trail at Hogpen Gap. After crossing the roadway, we climbed toward the summit and turned left to follow the blue blazes to the Whitney Gap Shelter. Lenea joined us for the first time in months.
The hike to the summit of Wildcat is moderate, and we always get there quickly. On this day, I wanted to hike on to the shelter. I didn’t know it at the time, but this particular shelter is further off the AT than most. Leave it to me to choose a trail with a longer than normal rocky descent!
“What you don’t know, won’t hurt you, right?” So off we went with Wessy leading — as always! She loves this trail and is so familiar with it. She zooms through the rhododendron tunnels. She’s been hiking to the top of Wildcat since she was probably five or six-months old! It was her first trail when she was a pup-pup—about a year ago! The only difference between then and now is that we did not go all the way to the summit. She was much too young.
As you get to the top of Wildcat views become really nice, especially in the winter!
Several places are well-worth a stop for a photo. Below Pat is a rocky face, so Wessy and I did not go too much lower. Hawks hovered overhead, which makes this a very special place. Many people have said it feels enchanted as in some of C.S. Lewis’s novels: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. On this day, skies were gray in the beginning but later sunlight filtered in through the trees. We love hiking on a gray misty day, but we also love sunlight!!
Wessy has really grown up. She’s a strong Little Brown Dog!
I promise: she’s bird watching and listening!
At the summit and we could see Cow Rock Mountain in the distance and another mountain range. There’s a limited view in the summer but I know the sunset views are amazing. On this day, we certainly had a forever view. Wildcat Mountain is such a pretty mountain. If you have a short couple of hours, it could be the right destination. It’s one of my go to places to relax and continue working on Wessy’s training.
Remember: It’s a moderate trail up to the top; but beyond that, it is much more difficult.
Wildcat Mountain is better known to locals as a hike that offerings great, wide-open views from its bare-rock overlook below the summit. It’s also known to many backpackers spending the night in the Whitley Gap Shelter as that ‘dang hill’ they have to re-climb before getting back on the AT. We had to re-climb the same hill and it was tough!
The trail to the shelter starts out rolling because you are hiking on a ridge with very little drop in elevation. The closer you get to the shelter the more intense the climb down becomes. Some of my “intense-ness” could be the result of Wessy wanting to trail run!
Here she is watching for more birds! She is wearing her e-collar, which stops her from pulling too much and wanting to wander. I’ll never do the “off lead” thing in these mountains. People (guys) do this all the time, but I just don’t want to lose her to a rogue squirrel that is hoping through the forest!
Sometimes, people want to know why I hike. I don’t guess you have to hike or walk or do anything physically, but I can tell you the one thing I have learned from being on a hiking trail is that hiking or even walking staves off feelings of loneliness, sorrow, depression, and anxiety! I hike to know I’m alive. I also hike so my doctor doesn’t have to give me drugs for things that go wrong when we get older. You certainly don’t have to walk along the AT to achieve that. You can walk your neighborhood or visit your local gym. For me, I made a decision to try to live actively as long as possible. So, I hike!
This was our first look at the Whitney Gap Shelter. We tried three times to reach it and had to turn back three time due to rain, darkness, or for some other reason—like just not finding it. But today, we reached it! Yeah!
As always, we run into other hikers. For these guys, it was a destination hike. This shelter is so far off the AT, I can’t imagine any thru hiker using it. Thur hikers are all about time and pace and “getting there.” They would have to take a side trail to get to this point. Better to use a shelter on Wesser Bald or Siler Bald or Wayah Bald!
We always have cameras with us and someone always asks us to take their photo. Because I had Wessy, Anne did the honors. Wessy was busy checking out what the guy’s had in their packs and tents, which were located near by her. If they had food laying around, she would find it!
So, I can consider the shelter tagged. We did NOT visit the nearby privy!!
The hike was pretty much “up” on the way back to the summit, so I put the camera away in my pack. Then I saw this little guy peeking through and thought it would make a nice parting shot. Spring is here once again and I’m alive to experience it! (Big Smile)