Spruce Mountain (3037 feet)
Today was a typical fall day. The weather was cool and mostly cloudy with the sun peeking out occasionally. There was a good amount of color in the trees, although some trees were bare. I felt like last weekend might have been the peak season for this part of the state. There was a reasonably large parking area at the trail head, but it was busy today. When I arrived around 10:30 there was only one "normal" spot left (but still room for more cars to squeeze along one side of the parking lot).
The trail started out wide and easy, ascending gradually along an old road. At about 0.9 miles the trail turned off the road, but continued over easy grades as it approached the mountain itself. At that point the trail steepened and climbed through a mostly spruce forest to the summit. The forest had an almost magical quality to it: soft, silent, and inviting. The steep section was a solid climb, but not long. In parts the trail crossed over relatively smooth sections of exposed rock. Be cautious in wet or icy weather. In a few places there were herd paths that paralleled the official trail though the forest, bypassing the exposed rock.
The summit itself was largely wooded, although there was a fire tower that afforded panoramic views. Personally, I don't usually go up fire towers, so I contented myself with a more limited view to the northeast that was visible from the ground (as shown above). Neighboring Signal Mountain was easy to see and dramatically placed.
This is, overall, a very nice hike. It is difficult enough to hold one's interesting without being particularly long or grueling. Despite the wooded summit the views are good enough to be a nice reward for the climb.
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