When: Friday, January 3 thru Sunday, January 5, 2014.
Details: Laurel Fork Gorge. Hostel supported day hike. Rated strenuous for elevation change and potential weather conditions. Not scouted.
We will drive to Hampton, TN 37658 on Friday. Hampton is near Dennis Cove. The Braemer Castle Hostel will be our base. http://www.trailjournals.com/photos.cfm?id=723277 for photo. Check on your own for other photos of accommodations/amenities. This is a large stone building, the owners’ residence as well as a hostel. There is a shared kitchen (plan is to eat most meals in Hampton or Elizabethton) and showers. Rooms appear very clean. $15 per night for bunk room. $25 for private room.
We have numerous options for a hike Friday in the Dennis Cove area. Dennis Cove to Laurel Falls or US 321 (5.4 miles out-and-back to US 321). Most of the trail is rated “easy except the spur down to the falls and back up, which is as steep and rocky as a trail can be” (“Exploring the AT”, Doris Gove). Also other trails out of Dennis Cove depending on trail conditions.
Saturday morning we set a shuttle to begin the day’s hike on the AT from Watauga Dam to US 321 at the south end of Watauga Lake. “The AT passes through the dramatic scenery of Laurel Fork Gorge with its large waterfall, steep slopes and sheer cliffs. Unmarked side paths lead to little-used lake coves with beautiful views” (“Highland Trails”, Kenneth Murray). This section is 5 miles out-and-back. Consider that we have to set the shuttle, the amount of snow we are likely to encounter and 5 miles plus exploring the side paths, and this should provide us with a full day. If we need more distance, we can continue on the AT past Watauga Dam. The AT crosses the dam and makes a steep climb up the ridge above the visitor’s center.
Sunday will be an up-and-out morning to return home.
The trip is weather dependent. There is almost certain to be snow on the ground in the area and at our elevation. Some of the roads we use to set a shuttle are secondary. In the event of a late week winter storm that forces cancellation of the trip, Plan B is the north section of the Neusiok for warmer weather. Setting a Plan B as an alternate means that, having committed the time to the trip, we do not have to give up the trip if the weather in the mountains is just too severe.
You commit to Laurel Fork Gorge. If Laurel Fork Gorge cancels due to weather, I would not expect you to go to Neusiok unless you wanted to go. On the other hand, it is too complicated to try to coordinate someone who just wants to go to Neusiok.
Group size is limited depending on experience of participants. More information on the Sierra Club web page http://northcarolina.sierraclub.org/
$25 (per each person in a group/family) refundable-at-the-trail head deposit required).