Albert Mountain Fire Tower
My birthday was in November and as I get older, I’m less and less interested in celebrating (at least in the traditional sense). I’ve never really been one for getting “things”, even when I was a kid. I’d much rather go do something memorable. Now that I’m concretely into adulthood, I feel more confident doing whatever I want to celebrate my birthday, even if that means hiking to a fire tower along the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina. When I was a kid, I read an article about fire watchers in “National Geographic” and I thought that would be a awesome job. I think the article was from the 70’s and little did I know fire watching is pretty obsolete. So I decided to make my fire tower dreams come true and hike to the Albert Mountain tower near Otto, NC.
James and pups came along on what turned out to be a very sunny, but freezing day. The Albert Mountain tower is close to the Georgia state line but getting there does require about 45 minutes of driving up the mountain on a gravel road. The foliage at lower elevations along the road was stunning but unfortunately, the leaves were pretty much gone at the elevation of the tower (5000+ feet). We started out on a access trail and then linked to the Appalachian Trail to hike the rest of the way to the tower. I’ll admit, we only hike about 2 miles because it was so cold and windy, although the hike can be extended further along the AT if desired. Of course, I got the info for this hike from Asheville Trails!
I have to say, the Albert Mountain tower lived up to my wildest fire tower expectations. The staircase was unlocked, so James and I took turns going up to the top. I wouldn’t recommend trying to walk up there with dogs. The actual cabin was also unlocked, but there was a (presumable) thru-hiker in there eating breakfast and talking on the phone, so I left him alone. The cabin itself was basically the cutest tiny home ever. I would just love to live in a completely windowed castle in the sky. The views were stunning all around, with some good fall color still visible to the south. There was also an educational placard at the base, describing the history of the tower and area.
After finishing at the tower, we stopped at the Pickens Nose trailhead, located along the same gravel forest service road. There were a lot of cars parked at the trailhead, but we found a spot. I can see why this place is extremely popular. It’s also a short trail but the scenery is outstanding. The namesake “nose” rock formation was extremely unique and the views were to die for (although, caution is necessary while near the formation, so you don’t actually fall and die). All along the trail and at the very end, there are also other spots with beautiful overlooks and views. With Pickens Nose being at a lower elevation, the foliage colors were more prominent as well.
So I have to say, my unorthodox birthday celebration at a fire tower was the perfect way to spend a sunny, fall day. Despite being just a short drive from Georgia, the scenery was amplified and the views all the more striking. It is one of my goals for 2019 to spend more time in North Carolina and this short trip inspired me even more.