I told myself that I would wake up early and just GET. GOING. And that would give me plenty of time to cover my 20 miles and get to food quicker, and then back to Augusta so I could get some good sleep before I had to leave for work at 5:45am Monday.
But sleeping on the ground is actually pretty comfortable. It’s definitely better than a shelter, it’s just shelters are more convenient. And so when I woke up at 4:30 (I’m pretty good at internal alarms), I decided on 30 more minutes. And at 5am I said the same thing. It was cold! And at 5:30, I decided to hold child’s pose for…30 minutes. And finally, at 6:30…ish, I started walking. I didn’t trust the creek water (too close to the road, too much runoff) so I hiked half a mile before I stopped for water. This is the tent site I’d sort of meant to stay at, but when I’d seen the other one with people still up and plenty of room (AND a fire going, although not a good fire) just half a mile short, I figured I’d stop early. And good thing, too. For one, it was packed. And for two, look at this pitiful bear hang. (For the record, it should be 15 feet high and 4 feet from the tree trunk.)
Then up and up and up to Doll Flats for breakfast….and 5 hour energy. That thing really did work magic. Thanks for the tip, Carpenter!
Also, sometimes I just shouldn’t check the elevation profile.
And wouldn’t you know it, that was the final North Carolina state line. If my sections had made any sense, I would either be entering or leaving North Carolina for the first or last time. But I knew what it meant. I was 18 miles from finishing my second state.
I accessorized with my sunglasses neck strap thingie. I needed a headband; I didn’t have a headband; I made a headband. Voila.
I was cold all morning, and eventually I was up far enough that I started seeing frost flowers (are these frost flowers? I’ve been calling them that since January).
I started hitting the balds. There’s hump mountain, little hump, grassy bald, Jane bald, and …maybe another one. I’d have to check. It was FREEZING. Look, there’s even frost on the grass. The wind was so strong and relentless it would catch my sleeping pad like a kite and try to spin me around. Not like I’m unsubstantial or anything, but I am kind of aerodynamic I guess.
The little red dot off in the distance is Overmountain Shelter. My shuttle driver Tom (Sam’s gap to Hughes gap, the 30 miler) told me it was one of his favorites. I’ll have to come back just so I can stay there I think.
I was also tempted to stay in this cave.
This section was just…a lightening of my spirits. I put in my headphones, I tightened my pack against my back, and I forgot about everything. There was sun and I was happy. At one point, a saddle between two balds, the trail was smooth flat dirt, so I ran. I stretched out my arms and lengthened my stride and quickened my pace and let my face break out into a grin and I sprinted. I skipped some. I trekking-pole-fist-pumped. I air drummed. I spun circles. I shoulder shimmied. And then I noticed that I was on grassy bald and it was a VERY popular destination for day hikers. Whoops.
6.6 miles to go south from Carvers Gap and it was THE WORST. The climb up was all loose rocks. The climb down was steeeeeep.
I did see the Cloudland Hotel site. Imagine coming up here as a fancy old timey person for your vacation. I can dig it.
My face when I saw my car through the trees. My toes had been numb for…hours. I was promising myself all sorts of food.
And there it is. 74 miles in 3 days. Done.
I got in my car and hit up the first McDonald’s I saw. This is my receipt. I ate all of it. (I would have more food pictures but those were the only times I was eating while I was stopped. I know y’all are disappointed.)
Man what a great section. Just a few short days and I’ll be headed out for another one. I hope you’re ready- the next one will see 2 big milestones AND it’ll have ponies. Also I’ll turn 30.
MVP: that McDonald’s though
LVP: carvers gap to Hughes gap