Saturday, May 7, 2016
Going downhill was no picnic. It was muddy and very rocky which meant that you had to take it slow and steady. A twisted ankle or broken bone out here isn't something you want to experience.
It was about 6:45pm when we finally exited the woods at Spivey Gap. We did it! 21.9 miles all in one day. Thanks to a little chafing and some new blisters, we were both beginning to walk funny at this point. I've now hiked over 330 miles of the AT and it was awesome sharing this last hike with Colin. He is an incredible young man and I can't wait to explore more of the trail with him in the years ahead.
We had earlier in the day discussed possible trail names for us both, but nothing really stuck. Colin and his buddies often refer to me as "Smooth Mike" and he tried to convince me to accept that as my trail name. I would like to think that "Smooth" is a reference to my overall cool demeanor....but in reality it has more to do with my preference in peanut butter. Oh well, the perfect trail name search continues!
By the way, here is a link to a neat app that helps calculates your AT hiking distance. Enjoy.
The skies were still overcast and the temperature never seemed to get above 65 degrees. We had about 7 miles left on our day's journey and we were glad that most of it was going down in elevation.
The one disappointing thing about hiking 22 miles in one day is that when you come across some neat side trails you are often too tired to take them. We passed up seeing several scenic spots as well as viewing some of the shelters along the way mainly because of the mileage it would have added to our day. Next time...shorter hike so we can smell the roses a bit more.
A few hours later we finally make it to the top of Big Bald. One of the thru hikers that we had met earlier in the day was already there resting his feet. His name was "Mumbles" and he was from Kentucky. He was probably carrying a 35 lb. pack and still managed to beat us to Big Bald. He was an incredibly fast hiker and he definitely had his "hiker legs" developed. It also didn't hurt that he was only 27 years old. I have no doubt he will finish his thru hiker journey this year.
The view from top didn't disappoint. It was worthy of the climb and it would have been easy to rest here for a long while, but the day was getting short we didn't want to run out of daylight. We both did our best to soak it all in and then moved on.
We spend about 20 minutes resting at Sam's Gap before heading towards our highest elevation of the day, Big Bald. It is about 6.5 miles from Sam's Gap and increases in elevation to over 5,500 ft. For me it was one of my tougher climbs. It probably seemed to Colin that I was taking baby steps as he used his younger legs and big strides to out pace me much of the day. As usual there was plenty to see along the way. At one point we both looked up into the distance and noticed a bald patch on top of a far away mountain top. We both looked at each other and knew that was likely Big Bald. At that point it seemed 100 miles away, but step by step we kept trudging forward. Unless the mountain moves we knew we would eventually get there.
It's around Noon as we finally get to Sam's Gap. As soon as we exited the woods, we saw a homemade sign that indicated there was more trail magic up a steep hill side trail. The sign promised scrambled eggs and bacon! As tempting as that was, Colin and I decided that we needed to keep moving due to the many miles still ahead of us for the day.
The AT passes underneath I-26 at the NC/TN border and we decide this is a great spot to rest a spell (in the warmth of the sun) and eat our lunch for the day...tuna, peanut butter, beef jerky, Ritz crackers, Pringles and Fig Newton bars. I think that covers all major food groups...are figs a fruit or veggie?