You may be tempted to camp here…
I know I was, and I did. But what really makes a good campsite? Is it the gorgeous once-in-a-lifetime evening light views? Is it the view of the hidden city-lights as they pop-up all over the valley like fireflies in the distance when the sun goes down? Or is it the fact that you’re simply looking for a spot on the mountain, perched up high on the ridgeline so that you can overlook everything below while thinking, “One day, all this will be mine…” in a voice that sounds eerily like Mufasa’s from The Lion King?
Honestly, while this spot, called Maple Camp Bald, on the ridgeline hike to the summit of Mt. Mitchell (the tallest mountain in the East of the United States at 6,684ft) is an incredible place to stop for a chance to take some photographs– I would never camp here again. High winds blasted up the ridgeline all night long threatening to tear down my tarp shelter like a child’s kite in a hurricane. The sky was eerily dark, as the ever-present clouds loomed over the summit of Mt. Mitchell as if taunting me with the possibility of rain as soon as the wind does a number on my shelter. Eventually, two of the stakes holding my shelter to the ground were ripped from the very thin layer of dirt that covered the mountain’s rocky under-surface and I sprang from my sleeping bag in an effort to grab the corners before the mountain claimed the whole shelter. I managed to get the stakes back into the ground and reluctantly climbed back into my sleeping bag, but at this point, the mountain had already won.
I had it in my head that with every gust of wind my shelter would be torn from over me and sent hurdling down the side of the ridgeline. Sleep was nearly impossible as the tarp above me shook violently in the wind and the 550-cord played a one-sided game of tug o’ war with the wooden stakes that I already had to fix once. The wind would die down for a moment, and I would think, “fall asleep now, please fall asleep now while you have a chance” to myself, but who was I kidding?
Eventually, my watch alarm blared that it was 2:00am, and it was time to pack-up camp to make the alpine ascent of the summit push to Mt. Mitchell.
Even though I didn’t get much sleep, I was thankful that I still had a shelter for later use.