April 28, 2018
Destination: Stealth Campsite at mile 819 Today's Miles: 17.50
Start Location: Stealth Campsite at mile 801.5 Trip Miles: 819
There was a chilly crispness to the air when I woke. I donned my rain jacket as I went to get my food bag down and get some water boiling for coffee.
Fortunately for me, either no bears or only really short ones were around last night because my food bag was still hanging, unperturbed. I thought about a bear standing on its hind legs and jumping up and down and not being able to get to my bag. Somehow, in my head that image made me laugh. I packed up my tent while drinking my coffee, inhaled two oatmeal packets and some pop tarts, and got ready to roll. I double checked to make sure my campfire spot was completely saturated with water and then headed north.
The morning hike took me around the banks of the Lynchburg reservoir and then down through the forest to Brown Mountain Creek. There was a little bit of a trail re-route here. The trail normally runs right beside the creek, but for the first section I walked on a parallel forest road. The reroute was recent. Storms had caused a tree to fall directly onto a bridge over the creek, essentially crushing it to smithereens. Fortunately, it was a short section and we were still able to cross the creek in time to see the plaques along a section of the creek that talk about the community that once lived there. I took pictures of these plaques and put them in my gallery. Some structure foundations made of stone and an old stone wall are still visible along the creek. The stream itself was really gorgeous; I wondered if there were any trout in it. The Brown Mountain Creek Shelter has a really nice view of the water. I stopped there to sign the shelter log, and then walked on.
It was quite hot out, at least it felt that way to me. The sun was beating down on me and I knew I needed to get some sunscreen on. I walked up to the Highway 60 road crossing and saw a picnic table on the other side of the road. It seemed like a great place to take a break and also dry out my tent tarp (condensation from last night). As I went around the corner some hikers heading south told me there was trail magic. I got very excited, and around the bend, there he was with all of his glory! The gentleman’s name was Ken Hawkins. He had a love for hiking himself and this June will complete his final section of the AT! He had a whole table set up with ingredients to make sandwiches, butterscotch oatmeal cookies that his wife had baked, Little Debbie’s of various kinds, chocolate, apples, clementines, potato chips, and sodas. Pure heaven! I had an apple, clementine, peanut butter and Nutella sandwich, some cheese puffs, some of the homemade cookies, and a Dr. Pepper. My favorite were the homemade cookies! I dried out my gear and chatted with Ken for quite a while. I was probably there for 40 minutes. Ken was a super nice guy. He said that after the AT he might try the Florida Trail. He had looked into the Palmetto Trail in South Carolina, but heard that it was not well marked and very hard to follow in some places. I thanked Ken profusely for the food and wished him luck on finishing his final AT section.
The climb out of highway 60 was anything but easy. The sun was beating down on my full belly and me. I took it slowly. I climbed up to Bald Knob and, at one point took a break to eat some trail crepes and try to pursue an elusive mobile signal, which didn’t pan out well. Trail crepes are what I call my tortillas with Nutella. After the knob the trail went up Cole Mountain, which had some nice views across a grassy expanse. I was so close to being a. 4000 feet again on Cole Mountain - just shy of it. The trail dropped down to 3500 feet at Hog Camp Gap and then climbed back up to Tar Jacket Ridge for more pretty views.
At this point I was pretty tired just from the heat alone, but also from the ups and downs. I made it through one more Gap and one more climb and ended up deciding to tent about a mile south of the Piney River on a ridge line at approximately 3600 feet. My feet had gone far enough and I just wanted to be done for the day. My spot was quite pretty! I climbed up over some boulders for a view, where a crisp wind caused me to quickly head back down. I made my dinner as the wind picked up a bit, hung my food bag and even pre-dug a cat hole for the morning! I could feel the temperature dropping. I expected it to get to just above freezing. What I didn’t count on was the wind. I went to bed to the sound of the wind picking up. Ok, so maybe a little wind was in order. How bad could it be? I was quite tired and could stay awake to find out. I fell asleep, grateful for the wonderful clear views today and for Ken’s amazing trail magic and spirit. It was a good day!