The Place: Unicoi County, right on the border with North Carolina.
The Hike: The Appalachian Trail at Beauty Spot, down toward Indian Grave Gap and back up.
Let me set the scene: early April 2018. I had lived in the Johnson City area for more than a year at this point and I knew how much of a difference there is between the temperature in Johnson City and up the mountains. It didn’t (and still doesn’t) deter me from a winter, well, early spring, hike. My first hike after moving here, after all, was at Carvers Gap in February.
I have found I rather enjoy hiking in the winter. It’s not too crowded on the trails. There’s no wildflower watchers or leaf peepers. Best of all is the way the cold air somehow makes it easier to breathe.
I drove up to Beauty Spot when there was very little snow left on the ground. My pictures would suggest otherwise, however, that’s rime ice. (Here’s a link to the Storm Team 11 meteorologists explaining it.)
The hike from Beauty Spot (if parked at the loop), down to Beauty Spot Road is approximately 1.3 miles, mostly downhill. Yes, I was one of those people who decided to hike down and then back up.
Your only true horizon views on this hike are from the Beauty Spot. That’s not to say the rest of the hike isn’t beautiful as well. In the winter and early spring, with rime ice clinging to the branches arching over your head, you may feel a bit like Elsa from Frozen walking through there. In the summer, when things are green, it’s a typical luscious green tunnel that the A.T. is known for.
If you’re headed up there, prepare for all-weather, as you would if headed to Roan Mountain or the Grayson Highlands. Also, bring a blanket and sit and enjoy the view. Well, if it’s warmer than when I went.