Thursday, June 29, 2017

30 More Miles

Parked (free!) in the backcountry parking area at Standing Indian Campground in North Carolina.
We took the 2 mile Long Branch Trail up to meet the AT north of Albert Mountain and hiked 6 miles to a campsite on the south side of the fire tower the first day. 

Lots of water/trail combos this trip.  I was able to leave my backup bottle empty and just carry a liter at a time.  Saved me 2 pounds!  

Back in my Chacos.  I will never put a shoe on these feet again.  I'm glad I am already married so there's no dress-up event in my future in which I can not wear sandals.
I refuse to think too much about winter, maybe I'll get some Uggs...

Me, adorable with my head wrap.  hahaha!
It does keep the gnats out of the ears...

Ghost flower or Indian Pipe
When it's been fertilized, it will turn a pale pink!
They do not contain chlorophyll and get nutrients from a symbiotic relationship with fungi in the soil instead of from the sun!

Back on the AT-blaze to blaze, that's all it takes to hike it.

Fire pink

Penis shaped mushrooms crack me up because I am still a 12 year old.
I did lots of giggling on this stretch...


Green Tunnel
FOR MILES


Look at that hill, good grief.

Albert Mountain Fire Tower


View is okay

climbing the tower did not change the view, so I came back down before I freaked out.

Panorama


the trail down the south side was much, much more steep


The rock being slick was unhelpful!

Look it's blazed.  THAT'S THE TRAIL.
I started yammering for a rope!

This spot made me laugh.
Here, we put in these steps for you.  Now you just have to figure out how to reach them!

Again, trail.  That's a blaze.

Sanity!
It levels out like it has amnesia, even though this pic above and the one above that were taken about 30 seconds apart!

I'm not even dead.
Could I be getting stronger?
Look at the stuff I have on my pack,  Gear tie, hair clip and a St. Anne medal.
I did go over my usual gear and cull more when I got home.  I have never used my knife, solar lantern, and I think I want to use just Purinize drops instead of hauling the UV light and extra batteries every time.  I already carry it as backup.  So I would be ditching about 4 ounces.  Which is not much, but it alllll adds up.
I keep looking at my first aid kit because I have not used anything other than leukotape and moleskin.I have all kinds of stuff in there.  I can't tell if I'm worried I will need it myself or if it's my inner Mom, worried someone else will need it.  I haven't been able to ditch it all yet-but I DID once carry 2 full pounds of first aid.  hahaha!  So 8 ounces is a 75% improvement.
I did realize I had THREE tubes of hand sanitizer and left 2 at the van before the hike.  I know plenty of people don't use it and that it's not going to kill viruses, but if I poop, I want sanitizer after!  The end!  


Just after the bottom of Albert, I saw a trail head off toward the view and told Melissa we should check it out.  It turned out to be a great campsite and we opted to end the day a little earlier than planned and set up there.
There was a wide, flat spot to set up tents and the view was amazing.  Someone had put up a safety line and benches at the overlook!  It was swank.



We hung the bear bags, which was hilarious as we took turns trying to hit a limb we had picked out.
I moved back to give Melissa more swing room as we had devolved from careful aim to helpless laughter as our rock bags went sailing everywhere BUT that limb.  She missed, but hit the one above it and we called it good enough.   We used the PCT method to hang.

Yes, yes I did shell out for a Big Agnes Copper Spur 2 Ultralight High Volume in the newly released olive green (June 15th!)
It weighs 2 pounds 14 ounces with everything, even the stakes.
I love it.
I have even set it up on my bed and slept in it.  Matt and I both fit, but it's snug.  He loves hammock camping though, so he would only join me if it were cold out and then snug would be just fine.  

Chillin in the tent listening to podcasts with my cell phone in the media pocket and the headphone lines coming out of their own teeny slot.

I sleep with my pack totally empty, between my pad and the wall.  Twofold reason.  One, it's easy to miss a wrapper or something like the essential oil wipes I like that have a strong smell, so I unpack everything every time in bear country.
Up there like that, it keeps my pillow from squirting out from under my head!  Oh, and it keeps my head from touching the top of the tent, which freaks me out for some reason.  hahaha.  


Tuesday I got up at 4:30 (home time) to watch the sunrise!



I was not disappointed.  I was going to call Melissa, but she came crashing out on her own and caught the light before the sun.  







At this point, Melissa had to head out to get our bearbags down so I could eat.  

Fed, hydrated and back to feeling fine.

I had a blood sugar drop!  First time since I was pregnant that I thought I might actually pass out.
It passed as quickly as it came with some water and a protein bar and I was able to get a call in for Matt's birthday while I had cell service before we headed out for day two!

One of the very few views between Albert and Standing Indian.
We had done 8 miles on a 27 mile loop, so still 19 miles to finish in 2 more days.  We had a bail point that would shorten the walk to 22 miles and after a round of icky tummy out of nowhere, I had decided to take it, even if Melissa decided to go on to Deep Gap on her own.
Over the course of the day, I felt better and better, despite the terrain.  So I was good to go the whole route after all.  YAY!  But, it's good to know it's there.  The trail starts right across from the Standing Indian Mountain signpost and goes straight to the campground in 4.1 miles.

Don't do it

Other than Standing Indian and a short (3/10 mile) section on Albert, this section is pretty forgiving.  It doesn't have as many PUD (pointless up and down) spots as other places and the climbs are usually short enough to see the top, so there's an end in sight, giving people like me that inner drive to just finish the climb instead of stopping to contemplate the Universe.

I did stop through the day, but to stretch my neck!  The trail was so rooty and rocky and in so many long tunnels that I rarely turned my head and so my neck was getting stiff.  I also didn't have my waist belt on tight enough and my pack, though fairly light at just over 20 pounds, was pulling more than usual.

Once that got fixed, I was feeling much better!  I do love my pack.


We walked through the miles of trail that were involved in the Winding Stair Gap wildfires last year.  Instead of long green tunnels, it was long brown and black ones.



We met a hiker here, I will call him Chaw.  We would see him again after the hike at a trail crossing the next day.  Both times he got a name wrong and dug in his heels about it.  Once was the name of a gap, which I let go because why argue.  The other was another hiker we both ran into who had a dog named Jessie and Chaw was adamant the hiker was Jessie.  I have a dog named Jessie, I don't routinely introduce her as Esther.  So I am thinking of changing his trail name to Adam, short for Adamantly Incorrect.  hehehe

More green tunnel
This is after something or other Gap, between Carter Gap (not CEDAR, Adam) and Standing Indian.  Don't stop here, it's swarming with gnats who want to climb into your ears.  Jog it if you can.

mile or two of this

Mulchy soft trail that gently climbs.  Not QUITE as good as the stretches of sandy trail that are totally flat, but still very nice.

More burned areas along the ridgeline

NO LIE



Standing Indian is the tallest mountain I have ever hiked up with 20 pounds of gear, in this century.
It was a LONG climb.  Every time I thought I had to be at the top, the trail would switchback and keep going.  It followed a narrow ridge, so there were views in the gaps between trees in both directions, but it seemed the whole time as if the top had to be just right there.  Then it would switch back on itself at the next little gap and keep climbing.

That being said, the whole time I was going up it, I thought it was still a mountain away.  So when I saw the sign, I was amazed!  I did it!  hahaha.  I thought it was still ahead of me.
A lady who was day hiking with her husband confirmed that was it-climb done.  All downhill to Deep Gap 3 miles away.  I was giddy.  Just 8 miles to the van!

We had the option to do the 4 miles down right then, but needed water.  The next guaranteed water was at the shelter, 2 miles away.  So, we headed to the shelter.

The hike DOWN sucked almost as much as the climb up because of fist-sized loose rocks covering the trail.  They all moved and slid and flipped and wobbled.  It was tedious.  The north side was all roots, but that's nothing because while they poke up, they also stay put. 



The spring at the shelter!
It was actually WAY down from the shelter, first time I have had to leave the trail to get water, and it did cross the trail, though in a smaller trickle.  This pool was much easier to get water from.

The trail back up.  And I was still wearing my pack, but had left my poles.  Holy cow, what a difference!  I won't leave my poles again!

We hung out at the shelter a while.  Melissa was done for, but the log book told the tale of several nights of a nuisance bear getting food bags, including the night before.  We packed back up to go to Deep Gap.  I was going to leave her there with my pack and do the 4 mile Kimsey Creek trail back to the van and come back around to get her.  About 100 feet down the trail, a couple was headed right our way.  They said they were staying at the shelter and we talked over the bear issue and decided it was safer to stay together.  Plus, Melissa was exhausted.  I was still coasting over the whole 'climbed it without knowing it' high.

We got set up, ate, cleaned out ALL of our packs and bagged anything with a smell and then hung the bags, tying the line on another tree across the way, up pretty high.  Then we chatted a bit and went to bed by the time the sun was behind the mountain.


Flame Azalea

10 feet up, 6 feet out and 6 feet below the limb.  Can't do much more than that!

Did I mention my new tent? 



No bear that night, though he would have to have been pretty noisy.  I heard movement around the tent a couple of times, but that could have been a raccoon just as easily.  I did not see prints or scat the next morning.  We had seen scat 5-6 times along the trail.  It's certainly bear season.  Don't make it easy for them to get human food!

We had a mile to Deep Gap, then about 5 back to the van via Kimsey and the campground road/trail combo.

We started out hiking down to Deep Gap.
Yeah-I don't think that is 'down' either.  

It's an easy enough trail, at least it's not rocky!

At Deep Gap, we turned on to Kimsey and started walking.  



We decided this bridge had the boards ripped off from flooding.  The wood left behind was solid.

This crossing was a little trickier.  I am so glad to have my poles!

Lots of this-jumbly rocks along tumbly creek.

The final ford into the campground.

The campground is gorgeous and you'll just have to believe me as I took only that pic above of the creek.  haha!

We put our stuff in the van and drove around to the campstore called 'Serves You Right' which is too adorable.  We bought cold drinks and headed out, it was about 11.

Melissa wanted to get photos at a couple of the gaps that came near the road, so we stopped at Rock Gap, then meandered a while and found Winding Stair Gap, where we ran into Chaw the second time.  


Pic from the gap.


We kept going and drove to Wayah Bald and climbed to the tower there.  It's also on the AT and also was badly burned in the fires.




The yellow blaze is the Bartram Trail that joins the AT for a stretch


Fire-damaged trees.


The old ranger/fire tower housing.


A back shutter was open, so I took some black and white photos because it looked spookier.  The house was not scary a bit.  


We shut the shutter before we left.  


From the end of the byway, we headed to the NOC, another stop on Melissa's wish list.  She got a pic of the AT  headed out of the gap and we had a late lunch at the restaurant and watched rafters go by.  Then we soaked our feet a while. 


The view from my feet.


We went in the outfitters, but for once I did not want a sticker or to look at the protein bars, so I headed out to watch the river a while more.

We didn't have a real plan for what to do next, so I decided to head home.  I don't sleep well away, despite my ridiculous efforts to sleep cushy and warm.  I was tired and kind of done with just driving to see the views.
But, there was one more view I could always drive to, and it was on the way home.

I stopped for gas in Robbinsville and headed to the Cherohala, stopping at Hooper's Bald and we hiked to the top.  The trees around the edge had grown up and they blocked the bulk of the view, but the balds are always magical to me!




We headed back to the van and stopped to get a drink at Sonic-I had bitten the CRAP out of my tongue and it had started to really hurt and swell.  One green tea with blackberry later and I was feeling much better.  The cheesesticks did not hurt things either. 



We got back around midnight and I was still wearing the same clothes I left out in on Monday.

Good trip, I am glad to have had the experience. I know more than I did before I left.

Trail magic this time involved things like I rinsed my bandanna in a very shallow creek and it got covered in silt.  Later after it dried, it was covered in dried silt.  I stopped to shake it out and a shower of tiny mica flakes, like glitter, fell through a sunbeam and it was beautiful.


About Me

Unschooling mama from the start with 2014, 2016 and 2018 graduation dates. I enjoy camping, reading, swimming, hiking and photography.