Saturday, March 5, 2016

End of a Great Day

It is about 6:45pm as I make my descent into Devil Fork Gap. Another long section down and I'm feeling good....very wet and sore...but good.

My Silent Hiking Buddy

For most of the day I was totally alone out there. Then I passed another solo hiker taking a short break. He and I continued to pass one another for a few miles and then we ended up hiking together for about 7 miles until we got to Flint Mountain Shelter. He and I didn't talk about hiking with each other but rather our pace was the same and it was just a random thing that we were together heading in the same direction. I did learn that his name was also "Mike", but other than that we didn't talk much. Strange thing is that we both seemed okay about not taking part in too much chit-chat as we muddled our way through the wet forest. He was also solo hiking and we both seemed to understand that being alone with your own thoughts is often a great part of the hike.

The Non View

This section has some terrific I am told. Due to the rain and cloud cover I spent zero time at some of the most scenic views on the trail. 

However, even in the rain, fog and mist it is hard to not see beauty if you are just open to finding it...

Bad Weather Route

Twice in this section I had a directional decision to make. Apparently on a couple of risky ridge lines, you can take the normal trail or opt for a "safer" lower trail if the weather isn't being nice. Although my weather was nasty, I decided that when they say "bad weather" they likely mean "snow and ice". Since I didn't have any of that I pushed forward into the unknown.

When it pours!

For the most part, I've had great weather while hiking. However, this trip was rain and more rain the entire day. Since I was getting a late start and it was wet all around, I was limited in how many pictures I took.

Hike #12 - Allen Gap to Devil Fork Gap 20.3 miles

Its Sept 12, 2015 and I have prepared myself for one of my famous solo day hikes along the AT. I typically go hiking during August but life didn't permit that to happen this year; therefore, I'm venturing out for my first September hike. I've mapped out a very long but doable 20.3 section that will take me from Allen Gap to Devil Fork Gap. I actually spent the night with my cousin in Black Mountain, NC the day before so I could be up early for the day long hike. I had prearranged a shuttle with one of the areas best...Uncle Johnny's Hostel in Erwin, TN. What I didn't plan on is how lost I would get trying to find Devil Fork Gap the morning of my hike. I was to meet the shuttle driver at 8am...after a very frustrating search and a few phone calls, I finally arrived at 9am. To my amazement, the shuttle driver was still there waiting on me. She was actually the wife of "Uncle Johnny" from the hostel and she was very gracious in waiting for this "out of towner" to find his way.

Spring Mountain Shelter

I come across Spring Mountain Shelter about 11 miles into the hike. Decent looking shelter...wish I was staying the night, but I press on with only a few miles remaining.

Around 4:00pm I finally arrive at Allen Gap...the end of Section Hike #11. Its been a terrific day and I once again smile to myself as I throw my sore body into my car and head for home.

The Hills Are Alive!

I come across many interesting things along the way. Below are a few of them...

Rich Mountain Fire Tower

About 8.2 miles into my hike I take a small side trail that leads to the Rich Mountain Fire Tower. I figure that will be a great place to stop for lunch...if I can find the courage to climb to the top (remember that I'm kind of afraid of heights).

Somehow I manage to make it to the top and the view doesn't disappoint.

I sit down for a spell and take in the views...inside and outside of the tower.

Trail Magic

I get to US 25/70 and I raise my hand high as I got a little "beep-beep" from some bikers that passed underneath me as I walked across the bridge. 

At the other end of the bridge is one of many random acts of kindness I will see along my AT adventure.  Water is one of the most important things needed while out here; however, at this point in my short hike I didn't need extra water. Regardless, it is always nice to find a little "trail magic" along the way.

Tanyard Gap and the Wrong Turn

When people ask me if its easy to get lost on the AT, I typically tell them that isn't in the top ten list of things to worry about while hiking the AT. After all, most of the AT is very well marked with a white blaze posted every so often along the way. Also, the foot path is well traveled and easy to follow. Well, about 6 miles into this hike I come across a gravel road (USFS 113). As I glance up, down and across the road I can't seem to identify where the trail picks back up. I kind of see a path a short ways down the road and decide that must be the way. After about half of a mile up that path I step on what feels like a big rock buried under the leaves and almost turn my ankle. I look down to find a little friend...

Its at that time that I realize I haven't seen a white blaze for quite a while. I make a decision to turn around and head back to the gravel road. Once there I see where I made my navigational mistake and finally get headed in the right direction and after a short while I arrive at Tanyard Gap. I begin to think about how lost I would be if my little turtle friend hadn't stopped me when he did. I've been hiking by myself the entire day, but for some reason I don't feel so alone.

Wow...277.7 miles down and a lifetime to go!

Mill Ridge - postcard perfect

The pictures speak for themselves...

Dam and Pond

5 miles into the hike, all is going well and there is much to see. The temperature is very nice for hiking and although it recently rained things aren't too muddy along the way. 

I keep trudging forward, when out of nowhere I stumble upon a dam holding up a small pond.

French Broad

As I leave Hot Springs heading north, I cross the French Broad River. I actually rafted down the French Broad as a teenager and my mind takes me back to those younger more carefree days as I glance down from the bridge.

I begin to climb in elevation trying to take in all that is around me.