We tried something new today. Get up at 5am and on trail by 6am. The sun is up so it’s not brutal, and the birds start chirping by 5:30am, so I’m already awake. But last night I had one of those sleepless nights. I don’t get why this happens? I’m pooped, exhausted, and have no energy to do much of anything but lie supine. And then, I toss and turn all night long. I finally took a Benadryl and slept for a few hours.
Today was a big day. Blue and I climbed several notable peaks. Well I don’t think you can really call them peaks, let alone mountains. The Appalachian Mountains are not grand in scale, but they do boast many high points that are worthy of tackling. Little Rock Knob was our first climb. We winded through a Spruce Forest and came to a rock outcropping. We reached the viewpoint shortly after 8am and I think we were the first ones up to see it. No prize obtained, but noteworthy!
What goes up, must go down. So the 400’ climb was negated with a downhill slide of 800’ to Hughes Gap Road. What I haven’t mentioned is the countless property owners who either donated or sold their interests in their properties so that the Appalachian Trail could be constructed. The Hughes Family, owned this piece of property since 1868. It was pasted down from three generations, and now is preserved by the ATC.
After crossing the loose gravel Hughes Road, Blue and I started our ascent to Roan Mountain. It is over 6200’ and dominates the skyline. The trail is lined with both Red Spruce and Fraser Fir, which are considered some of the rarest ecosystems in the world. This is due to the cold and wet conditions found on these peaks. I can attest to that! Cold and wet followed by hot and humid. It is truly a masterpiece of relic forest that dates back hundreds, if not thousands of years.
When we reach the summit, there was a plateau that had yellow flowers, tall grasses and trees on the edges. We walked to the summit which used to boast the “Cloudland Hotel.” This resort, which is no longer in existence, catered to pleasure seekers from the city along with sufferers of hay fevers. The most interesting fact is the Hotel straddled the Tennessee – North Carolina line. In fact a stripe was painted through the middle of the dining room and down the length of the banquet table. This showed where guests could legally drink alcoholic beverages, and where they couldn’t. In Tennessee, it was legal to drink but North Carolina could not. There was legend that a North Carolina Sheriff named Ron Evans (I had too) lingered around the hotel, waiting to nab a drinker who steeped over the State Line with his drink! Dirty dog Sheriff, should’ve called the State Troopers!
After milling around on the summit for over an hour, we headed down towards Carvers Gap. The forecast was predicting thunderstorms, no way, and we still had three more Balds to tackle. Round Bald, Jane Bald and Grassy Ridge Bald are all above tree line and not a super great place to be when thunder and lightning roll in. These three Balds were positioned at the end of our hike day. Bad planning on my part! As we headed up Round Bald, the sky changed. We took a few pictures, pulled out our rain covers and opened the umbrellas. Just for clarification, these are hiking approved umbrellas and do not have metal parts. No conductors, however, if I’m the tallest thing on a Bald, then umbrella or not, I need to take cover.
Sure as predicted, the thunderstorms rolled in. I had been told about freezing rain but haven’t experienced that on the west coast. We have hail the size of golf balls but this is frozen rain drops that pellet you. It was cold and wet and we tried to get up and over both Balds before the lightning hit. Our timing was impeccable and we reached safety of the forest and headed down to our desired campsite.
Today was a super day, not too hot and outside of the freezing rain, not too cold. We didn’t get all the miles we wanted but we sure had some incredible views and covered a lot of territory. The Appalachian Trail is wearing on me, in a good way. It seems the past week has been so diverse and opened my eyes to the incredible beauty of this place. I’m not a big fan of all the rain but I guess, that’s what makes it so intensely different from the West Coast, strictly speaking California. I don’t think I’d ever move here, but I do enjoy spending this time walking its mountains. There is something mesmerizing about this terrain, forests, plant-life, and weather. At least for now, I’ll embrace what it gives me and be thankful for each day I can walk this trail.
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Micah 6:8 NIV