Ascent of Pickens Nose on 2020-05-10

Climber: Bradley R

Date:Sunday, May 10, 2020
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Pickens Nose
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:4920 ft / 1499 m

Ascent Trip Report

How I chose this hike: Yellow Bald, Albert Mountain and Big Butt were all on the NC 5000' list, and Albert was on the Lookout tower challenge. Pickens Nose had nice views and is a relatively prominent peak. When I learned we were meeting at my in-laws for supper on Mother's Day rather than lunch I figured I could fit this hike in.

The Plan: After visiting my parents on Saturday I would go home and have supper, then drive ~3 hours to the Pickens Nose trailhead. I would sleep at the trailhead and start the hike around sunrise. I would hike to and from Pickens Nose, then down Ball Creek to where the Appalachian Trail (AT) crosses. I would head north on the AT toward Albert Mountain, along the way I'd bushwhack to and from Big Butt, then continue north on the AT to Albert Mountain and its fire tower. From there I'd walk the trail to the parking area and bushwhack to Yellow Bald and back. I would return via the same route minus the bushwhack to Big Butt. At Ball Creek, if time allowed I would continue south on the AT for a bit, then return to Ball Creek Rd and back to the car. I followed this fully on the way out to Yellow Bald, on the return I took the forest road for a while before rejoining the AT.

I had tried this hike once before, but found Ball Creek Rd. closed, in case it was closed again I had a hike to Siler Bald from 64 planned as the back-up.

The Drive: I placed Pickens Nose Trailhead into Google maps and it took me directly to the parking area. Stated above the last time I tried this hike, in January, I'd found Ball Creek Rd. closed. I don't know the exact dates, but Ball Creek Rd. is closed for the winter months. I had previously found details for the close and open dates on Nantahal National Forest website, but can't find them today. I was concerned it may still be closed due to quarantine, but was happy to find the gate open this time. Other than long, the drive was straightforward. I reached the trailhead at 11:30 PM and went straight to sleep.

The hike: I woke up around 6:30 AM and took my time getting ready to go. I left the car around 7:20 AM. I started down the Pickens Nose trailhead. The trail was a bit steep early, but not bad. To the best views was about 0.75 miles, with the highest point being just off the trail about halfway to the view. Views included lots of Georgia to the south, along with NC. I returned to the car via the same route. (1.5 miles total)

Here I would follow Ball Creek rd. until it reaches the AT. This dropped kind of steeply before regaining just a bit of elevation when it reaches the AT. This section lasted 0.7 miles. (2.2 miles total)

I turned right, North, onto the AT. Soon after this turn there are thousands of Trillium blooming to the left of the trails. I had never seen such a large portion of land completely covered by Trillium. The vast majority these were Large White Trillium, in a few places where there was flowing water Red Trillium were also present. Eventually the trillium stopped appearing in this dense of a showcase. At one point I have a vertical rock face to my left on the AT with quite a bit of water running through it. Somewhere in here there was one awesome view east. After 0.7 miles I reached where I would cut off to Big Butt. (2.9 miles)

I found no clear path to Big Butt. The bushwhack was a bit tough due to briers and higher in the bushwhack dense laurel that forced me to crawl for a short section. I reached the top, and figured the high point was a boulder. I saw a large brown bird near the top, but couldn't tell what it was. I think it flew too well to be a turkey, but seemed too big to be a hawk... not sure. On the way out I tried to avoid crawling, but discovered my sunglasses, which had been on my hat, were gone. I retraced my steps including the crawling and found them on the ground where I had started the crawl. I rejoined the AT just north of where I'd left it. I gained and lost ~300' in a total of 0.7 miles (~1/3 mile each way) during this bushwhack. It was a bit tough. (3.6 miles total)

I now continued North on the AT. I was getting warm, so I threw my jacket off just to the side of the trail. From here I approached a forest road a couple of times on the AT, but never crossed the road. Approaching Albert's Fire tower the trail got quite steep, gaining, at one point, about 350' in 0.3 miles. After sucking some air I finally got to the tower. At the base there were again awesome views to the east. Up the tower you could see in all directions. Unfortunately the top of the tower is closed. I stopped here and flew my drone for a bit. This section was roughly 0.9 miles. (4.5 miles total)

I looped around to the parking area at the end of a forest road via the AT and a short connecting trail, lasting an easy 0.6 miles. (5.1 miles total)

Here I bushwhacked to Yellow Bald, the high point of the trip. This bushwhack was easier than Big Butt, but still a bit tough. I gained about 250' in 0.2 miles in the steepest section, and had some briers to fight through. There was a stone in what I believe to be the high point. In all the bushwhack out and back was about 0.5 miles. (5.6 miles total)

Now I recognize I'm behind on time, as I need to get back for Mother's day celebration at my in-laws and I have to get back to the car, plus have a 3 hour drive. It's 11 AM. To gain some time back I decide to use the forest road to make better time. I walk it, all down hill, for 0.8 miles (6.4 miles total)

I had to rejoin the AT at some point to pick up my jacket, or I'd have followed the road further. Now going South on the AT I retrace my steps, pick up my jacket, and continue back to Ball Creek Rd and past the nice display of Trillium. I reach Ball Creek after another 0.9 miles of hiking. (7.3 miles total)

I decide I have time to continue south on the AT for a bit and see if I can find some more wildflowers. I continue about 0.3 miles, but don't see a single wildflower, not even a Trillium. I return via the same 0.3 miles (7.9 miles)

Now I follow Ball Creek Rd. back to my car at the Pickens Nose trailhead. It feels steeper going up it than it did going down it... but not too bad. This lasted, same as before, nearly 0.7 miles. (Total of 8.6 miles)

Best Views - Pickens Nose
Highest Point - Yellow Bald (The fire tower on Albert Mountain may actually be higher... even the natural points are awfully close, but Peakbagger gives Yellow Bald the nod)

Notes -
- Only saw others on the path the the firetower from the forest road, and vehicles while on the road.
- Google Earth has Yellow Bald listed as Albert Mountain
- Pickens Nose and the fire tower may be worth redoing in the future, but it's such a long drive I don't see it happening anytime soon.
- I was kindly asked to slow down on the drive out of Ball Creek Rd. by two women walking their dogs. I easily stopped before reaching them giving plenty of distance and others were driving faster than me. I think I just startled them.

All stats entered under Yellow Bald since it's considered the high point.
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Bushwhack
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
Ascent Part of Trip: Mount Albert

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Pickens Nose2020-05-10 a 
2Big Butt2020-05-10 b 
3Albert Mountain2020-05-10 c 
4Yellow Bald2020-05-10 d2272 ft / 693 m
Total Trip Gain: 2272 ft / 693 m    Total Trip Loss: 2272 ft / 693 m

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