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The Real Cold Mountain

"Inman can see west for scores of miles. Crests and scarp and crags stacked and grey to the long horizon. Catalucci, the Cherokee word was, meaning waves and mountains and fading roads, this day the waves could hardly be different from the raw winter sky that were barred and marbled and same-shades of gray only. The outlook stretched high and low like a great slab of streaked meat…it was to Cold Mountain he looked. He had achieved a vista of what for him was homeland." – excerpt from Cold Mountain

On bookshelves around the world is Cold Mountain, a best-selling novel by Charles Frazier, whose lyrical prose makes you feel as if you have been to the summit. In the book, Inman, a wounded Confederate solider, leaves his hospital bed and heads home, on foot, to Cold Mountain.

You’ll find the real Cold Mountain in North Carolina’s Shining Rock Wilderness, which was originally part of the Cherokee Nation until white settlers with a land grant from the state began migrating here in 1796. At 6,030 feet, it is the tallest peak in the wilderness area. Located in government-owned Pisgah National Forest, Cold Mountain hasn’t changed much since the Civil War in which the book is set.

Its pristine state may make it seem lost in time, but it’s only 40 miles from eclectic Asheville and can be viewed easily from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Plan your North Carolina vacation with a breath taking Asheville Cabin Rental in the western mountains. That’s where we’ll start our journey. Milepost 412.2 on the parkway, about 30 miles from Asheville, brings our first glimpse of the peak. The best views of the mountain’s south face are from the Wagon Gap Road parking area. Thousands of travelers have had their pictures taken beside the Cold Mountain sign with the peak in the background.

Better views are available at Milepost 407. Take the mildly strenuous three-mile roundtrip trail up Mt. Pisgah for your reward: a superb view of the east side of Cold Mountain. This area of the parkway is typically closed November through March for the winter season.

If you want an up-close and personal encounter with Cold Mountain, strap on your best hiking boots and pack and plenty of food for the invigorating 10.6-mile hike. Hikers gain 2,800 feet in altitude as they leave the Art Loeb trailhead at the Daniel Boone Scout Camp, heading for Cold Mountain’s summit. You’ll reach plummeting Sorrell Creek about two miles into the hike, a cold, clear mountain stream that passes by some excellent campsites.

The trail ascends to beautifully forested Shining Rock Ledge, past Deep Gap and up the final 1.5 miles to the summit. A tangle of rhododendron can make reaching the top a challenge. Only experienced hikers who have maps and a compass should try this hike since this is a wilderness area with no signs or trail markers.

There is no town named Cold Mountain here at the peak, only the wildlife, the forest, the coves and creeks that Frazier described so vividly in his novel. But on a clear, cool North Carolina autumn afternoon, what could be better than this place of quiet contemplation?

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