July 7, 2018
I’ve enjoyed these weekend, lookout tower challenge endeavors. It takes you to places you might not necessarily go to, and with any older structures, there’s always a historical story to tell, as is the case with Camp Creek Bald. Located literally in the middle of nowhere, the hike to the bald is not hard, but it takes a day and a half to get to the trailhead.
Camp Creek Bald is located between the Allen Gap and Devil’s Fork Gap section of the Appalachian Trail. The best point to access the tower is from Jones Meadow. Just past the NC border, turn off Hwy. 208 onto Viking Mountain Road. For the next 8-9 miles go straight uphill, half of which is rough gravel road. Going those last few miles took me 30 minutes. I drive a Subaru Outback Sport, which is relatively low to the ground and had no trouble, but there’s no way to access the meadow without going slow. At the end of Viking Mountain Road (some local folks call it Upper Paint Creek Road), you’ll come to a Jones Meadow.
There are two places to park to access the AT. It is quite confusing, so please learn from my mistake. 1) If you park at the very end of Jones Meadow (indicated by the tell-tale signs of empty Corona boxes and high school partying) there is a blue-blazed downhill forest-service style road. Walk 1/4 mile, then turn right at the intersection and you’ll immediately see the A.T. Turn right and soon walk past the White Rock Cliff vista point. From White Rock, just walk south for 1.8 miles and you’ll see the blue-blazed trail to the right for Camp Creek. 2) As I found out on the route back, if you park at the first parking spot on Jones Meadow, you’ll see an ancient ski tower on the right with an old Jeep road. Walk up that road for 500 feet and you’ll see a blue-blazed trail on the left. This will connect with the AT after 100 yards. Turn right on the AT and you’ll get to the turn off for Camp Creek Bald after .8 miles.
Of course, I walked around for long time looking for the AT, until I met a Mennonite style family with German accents that pointed me in the right way (to the AT near White Rock). This area of the AT is so gorgeous: verdant forests, mushrooms, moss on rocks, rhododendrons in bloom. The AT is filled with a spirit of adventure and wonderment.
I walked for 1.8 miles and turned at the sign for the tower. Soon I came to a series of radio and cellular towers. To get to the actual tower, walk past them, then turn right onto a short uphill road. As soon as I neared the tower, a hiker walked down. He said he had walked up the Jeep road from Jones Meadow. I asked him how that road was, and he said fine, but that someone had placed a homemade sign up warning that “trespassers would be shot”. I told him how to find the side trail to the AT and ventured to the tower.
Camp Creek Bald looks like a cosmic delight. According to Peter Barr, the tower was a standard square model, until replaced with it’s current, post-modern style in the 1960’s. The history of the area is actually quite immeshed in that time period. The Greenville Sun chronicled the sad history of the area; from building a ski resort on top of a mountain that doesn’t have a navigable road and doesn’t receive enough snow to support a skiing. From various blogs that I read, it is purported that Elvis himself flew into the area on a helicopter in the 60’s to tour the site as an investor. Now Jones Meadow is a spot for drinking kids and hikers. While it’s sad, the area couldn’t be any more gorgeous.
Total mileage is 3 miles.