Sunday, April 04, 2010

Watauga Lake Shelter April 2010

One of my favorite hikes is follow the Appalachian Trail from the Watauga Dam Road to the Watauga Lake shelter on the end of the near the dam. If you use google maps to locate "Wilbur Lake Tennessee" you should be able to find the dam in the photo and then follow your nose across the lake but you'll end up in the trees! The hike is two miles, one way. Fairly easy. The hard part is the return hike from the dam to the parking lot. I hiked it on Friday, April 2, 2010, with Kim Stroud, who is a friend and member of the Elizabethton Bird Club, and a two-legged walking guide to flowers.

Clear sky. Light breeze. Record setting warm temperatures. It was a good day to be out on Good Friday.

The forest is still pretty sleepy. You can see a lot of green but it's vine and honeysuckle already making their way towards the sunshine. We found bloodroot, spring beauty, and toothwort blooming. The rest is just waiting for that right moment, like it will overnight, when suddenly everything is greened up. Here in Johnson City the pear trees are out like snow cones. The cherry trees are out. The grass is up. (I mowed some already.) Daffodils, periwinkle, hyacinth are all in full color. The quince bush is bright red.

Once summer gets here it is also very popular. Soon we'll have the first arrivals of the through hikers. Trails Days at Damascus can't be far behind. The distraction is from the lake. If you want your forest to be serene, quiet, perhaps tranquil, this is not the place. For holidays and weekends the lake is boat happy. Motors and loud music. If you want serenity go northbound instead. Just expect an uphill slog that'll take the wind out of you.

But this trip is nice and easy and year around fun (see other postings). If you keep going it's only about 2.5 miles to the swimming area on the far side of the lake from the dam and from there you head trudge further southbound to Roan Mountain.

Directions: Drive up from Wilbur Lake and as you pass where the AT crosses the road, ahead of you on the right maybe 50 yards is the dam access road. Keep on going to the parking lot on your left. Park there and double back to the access road and take it. You'll actually pick up the trail at the top of the hill. The AT will come to you from the right. Most importantly, remember, you are southbound on the AT. Cross the dam, stay the course. and after a while (I have no feel for distances) you cross over a creek (the only creek) and turn right, follow the trail a bit further along the creek and the shelter will be on your right. Look for the trail post marker also on your right.

Don't drink the water. Expect visitors.

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