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Let's hike the AT on the NC/TN border to an awesome, spectacular 360 degree view at the top of Big Bald, elevation 5,516 ft (by comparison, Max Patch is at 4,616 feet, 900 feet lower).
Distance: 6.5 miles in and up, 6.5 miles back and down. Or add about 1/2 mile more if people want to check out the next bald over from Big Bald, Little Bald.
Difficulty: There is a 1,750 foot net elevation gain (start at 3,760, climb to 5,516), and a cumulative elevation climb throughout the whole hike of about 3,100 feet. There is one particularly strenuous brutal section of about 1/2 - 3/4 mile uphill. Make sure that you have the physical ability to do this hike!!! If I haven't hiked with you before, I may e-mail you and ask about your recent hiking experience.
Dogs?: As long as your dog is friendly to both people and other dogs, feel free to bring it, but also please have a leash with you as we will hike on or near roads that may have cars on them. Also see the note below on water availability on the trail.
Water: There is very little water on the trail, so it is recommended that you bring at least 2 liters of fluid per person, more if you bring a dog.
What else to bring: Lunch and/or trail snacks. We'll have lunch at the top of Big Bald. And of course wear appropriate clothing and footwear for the weather conditions which may be quite chilly. It will most likely also be breezy and cool at the top of Big Bald, so bring long-sleeve clothing or a jacket to wear at the top.
Hike Description: Mostly the hike is a gradual climb on a well-marked trail through a fairly dry hardwood forest. About 2 miles in, right after the brutal section, there is a pretty meadow across which you can view our goal, the summit of Big Bald. The trail then winds up and down (and between NC and TN) for the next 3 miles through the woods, with glimpses here and there through the trees of the landscape below. Approaching within about a mile or so of the top, there is a small spring, but the water still probably needs to be filtered. Also, that stretch is difficult because it's steep and rocky and may be slippery if wet. At the top, there is a grassy bald with a gravel road. Fortunately, the access to the gravel road is controlled by a locked gate. We will spend some time at the top eating lunch and admiring the view. (Don't be disappointed if others are up there--the Wolf Laurel community is nearby, and people drive up to the locked gate and hike less than a mile, but that kind of defeats the purpose and sense of accomplishment.) If people are interested, we can also hike over to the next bald (named Little Bald, I think).