The trail was like a snowy slip-n-slide, making proper balance next to impossible during some parts of the hike. We were utterly surprised upon arriving at the trail head to see that the ground was still blanketed with snow—any snow around our house has long since melted. It escaped our minds that Elk Knob was at a higher elevation, and that it would be a little cooler (and windier) up there, so snow definitely didn't occur to us either.
While the snow did add another challenging element to this already grueling hike, we steadily stayed the course at a pretty fast pace. Granted, I was a lot further behind the group I was hiking with because I kept stopping to take pictures, but I still kept up pretty well (most of the time).
This seemingly short 1.8 mile hike made me feel like I was really out-of-shape. I mean, it has been quite a while since I've done a hike and for Elk Knob to be the first one I take on this year probably wasn't the smartest thing to do. I know that I'm making this trail sound really bad, it's not horrible, but I did feel like I was dying at a certain point. (Maybe just a tad bit dramatic.)
At least I conquered it this time, though! Cody and I attempted to hike this trail back when it first became a new addition to the NC State Park system in 2009. We got very close to the summit, but I started feeling sick and couldn't push myself to finish. This time, though, I was determined to make the climb to the top, but I needed some (a lot ) coaxing. The newly built trail that volunteers have helped to construct has made the Elk Knob Summit Trail a much more enjoyable hike. Now, it has switchbacks instead of making you trek straight up a super steep rocky road.
To reach the 5,520 foot peak (the second highest in Watauga County) you really have to push yourself to surmount the last 200 feet. It's the only remaining portion of the trail that takes you straight up the old road, and it's a doozie! I'm pretty sure it was the part I couldn't overcome the last time I tried to hike Elk Knob. My first failed attempt made reaching the summit much sweeter this time around. For so long I avoided this hiking trail because I wasn't able to complete it the first time. Cody thought he'd never get me to go back! Having finished it this time around, I don't think it'll be that difficult to get me to go back, especially since it's the closest hiking trail in Boone (aside from what's along the Blue Ridge Parkway).
Spending the day trudging through Elk Knob's hardwood forest and taking the time to reconnect with the splendor of nature was exactly what this hibernating homebody needed. And pushing myself to finally triumph over this trail was an added bonus! Now, it's getting me to think about all the places I want to venture to as spring approaches. Thoughts of camping, road trips, and more hikes on the horizon are getting me very excited about planning outings for the new season. I'm ready to spend more time outdoors! How about you?
What are you getting excited about as spring approaches?