This section was completed Friday, Saturday and Sunday, May 1-3, 2015.
Winding Stair Gap to the Nantahala Outdoor Center. First BPing for Laura and last shake-down hike for me. Excellent weekend fun!
Martha and I woke up pretty early. After eating and packing up, we hiked the 5 miles south to her car. I resupplied my food bag at her car and then it was time for her to return to the big city. So much fun sharing the trail experience with Martha and her support this weekend and for the whole adventure has been invaluable. 🙂
I continued south on the trail toward Hot Springs. I saw rattlesnake #3 near Hurricane Gap. Yikes! I would much rather see a bear!
About a mile north of Tanyard Gap I met a day hiker named Dorito. She shared her apple slices with me and we visited for about 15 minutes. She works at the Greeneville, TN John Deer facility. Ends up that is where Dave and Danny work, too. She said that I had managed to meet ALL of the Greeneville John Deer employees that hike the AT in just two days. Haha.
I hadn’t planned to spend anytime in Hot Springs but as I neared town I became aware that my hiker hunger had come raging back in full force. I stopped at the Iron Horse Café and ate a very large linner or is it dunch??? (Lunch/dinner) or maybe I should just call it a large snack since I ate dinner later. It was really good and fueled the rest of my hiking day. I had planned to camp in a particular area but as I arrived at the site, I saw 3 adult bears. That makes 22 bears I’ve seen. I decided to hike on a mile further and camp there.
Once in my tent, I checked in on my online class. Classes don’t start until Monday but they can start online classes over the weekend. Looks like I’m going to have a good group because over half had already posted their introductions to the discussion board. I responded to their posts and answered a few questions before letting the crickets sing me to sleep.
As I started the day, the skies were clear but the trail and plants were wet from the evening storm. The air felt very clean. About 2 miles in, I saw three bears: two adults and one cub. The cub was on the opposite side of the trail from the adults so I retreated a bit and waited until they had regrouped and headed toward the valley. I was in Tennessee so I’m counting these as Tennessee bears. That is 19 total bears.
I didn’t see or hear any human animals on the trail until right before lunchtime. I heard two men talking and rounded the corner to see them trying to maneuver over and around tree limbs that were across the trail from a tree that had fallen recently. I quietly closed the distance between us and started climbing through the limbs one step behind them. They didn’t know I was there until they had both crossed over and turned to look at the tree. We all got a big laugh out of their being surprised.
I hiked a short distance further with them and we had lunch together at the Flint Mountain Shelter. They were from the nearby town of Greeneville and their names were Dave and Danny. Dave is section hiking the AT but this weekend they were just out to enjoy a couple nights on the trail. It was so nice to meet these two.
After lunch, the trail went across a very rocky ridge called Firescald with sweet views for about 1.5 miles. The descent off the ridge was also very rocky. I was running down the trail with my loaded pack enjoying the technical descent when I came upon 5 guys in their mid 20’s. They all stepped to the left of the trail so I could pass. I kept running and easily stepping rock to rock as I went past them. I heard one of them say, “Damn, that was awesome!”. That totally made this middle aged lady’s day. Haha.
Martha had hiked in from the south and meet me at Little Laurel Shelter. We decided to tent near there. The 5 guys rolled in to camp a little later and camped across the trail from us. Ended up one of them lives in Avondale. We enjoyed getting to know them and others that were there for the night. Martha had read the trail register and informed me that Dropknife is only one day ahead and was heading into Hot Springs today.
I chose to do this section NOBO so Martha and I hiked the 6.5 miles north out of Sam’s Gap together to start the day. This put us on top of Big Bald when we stopped for a break. Big Bald offers a 360 degree view and we had a really nice day to enjoy it.
Then I headed toward Erwin and Martha headed back south to get the car. Next I climbed up Little Bald. There were men cutting the grass near the trail with John Deer tractors. The newly cut grass made this climb much more pleasant than it would have been. Good timing!
I stopped off at No Business Shelter for a snack and to read the trail register. There is this woman named Dropknife that is also doing a flip flop thru hike. I had been trying to catch her and got within 2 hours of her last weekend when I had to leave the trail for work. I know she is in her late 20’s, from Germany, and is very nice but I have never met her. In the register at the shelter I found out that she is also a PhD chemist. What are the chances? It appears she took some time off in Erwin so maybe I will still catch her this weekend.
With a few miles to go into Erwin, a thunderstorm popped up and escorted me in to town. Martha gave awesome support this weekend. 🙂 When I arrived in Erwin, she was there waiting on me with my favorite Subway sandwich and soda. Yay! Back to Sam’s Gap to head south tomorrow.
Surprise! After my work meeting this morning, I drove back to the trail. I decided to do the section right before the Smokies and then complete from Erwin to Max Patch over the next few days. This will set me up to be in the Smokies next weekend. I started hiking at 3:30. It was a little warm but much cooler than Atlanta. It felt good to be back in the woods.
I went through an area called Turkey Gap and actually flushed out 5 large wild turkeys from the plants by the trail. I think I was as surprised as they were. The only climb of the day was up Snowbird Mountain. It is bald on top with a strange looking FAA tower. I saw a momma bear and child in a tree. I tried to take their picture but they didn’t cooperate. They were to the west of the trail so I’m counting them as Tennessee bears.
A few miles before Davenport Gap, I was greeted on the trail by my good friend Martha. We hiked out and headed to Ashville for some dinner and then north to a hotel. Headed back to the trail closer to Erwin in the morning. 🙂
Martha headed back to Atlanta this morning so I was on my own again today. My SOBO hike has been pretty lonely since there are no other thru hikers in the area. However, visitors such as my mom, my sister Laura, and my friend Martha have been awesome!
This morning’s weather was very pleasant. I stopped for lunch at the Bailey Gap Shelter. I met two sisters that were camping in the area and doing day hikes. They were very nice and gave me some tangerines, baby carrots and M&Ms. We talked for about 30 minutes.
After lunch, I had planned to hike to the Captain’s place and rest a bit during the heat of the day. However when I got there, there was a closed sign on the zip line over the creek. So I set up my tent by the creek and took an hour nap. I think this is the third time I have done this on the trail. I woke up with more energy and ready to climb up on the ridge.
Once on the ridge, I had cell service for the first time in about 36 hours. I hiked along the ridge until it started raining. Luckily, I was right at a nice campsite so I set up my tent and climbed in. After the 30 minute rain, I made dinner, ate, and hung my food before returning to my tent.
After dark I started hearing animals moving around my tent. I rolled back my tent fly so I could see what it was but they ran away. I decided to sleep with the fly open (mesh still zippered) in case they returned. Sure enough, a few minutes later things started to move again. I turned my headlamp on to see three bunny rabbits enjoying the plants around my tent. Interesting how much noise they make when your ears are on their level. I guess not everything that goes bump in the night has to be scary. smile emoticon Sorry, not too many pictures today. I will do better tomorrow.
This fawn still has his/her spots. I saw two today that weren’t with their moms.
One of my night time visitors.