April 20, 2018
Destination: Campsite at Mile 677.1 Today's Miles: 20.10
Start Location: Stealth Campsite at Mile 657 Trip Miles: 677.10
The first thing that came to mind when I woke was “it’s not freezing cold!” It was chilly, for sure, but not uncomfortably cold like I feared.
Just looking at the day’s new sky I could tell it was going to be a beautiful day. I got out of my tent, retrieved my food bag, and boiled water for coffee. My tent tarp was nice and dry too I noticed as I broke camp. I admired the little creek and the waterfall while I sipped my coffee and ate. Time to get crackin’!
I hiked through rhododendron thickets and then along a river until I reached a large footbridge across the stream. I crossed over the bridge and then a road before I reentered the woods. After a big climb I was getting too hot, so I stripped off my jacket and change into my short sleeve shirt. I climbed a little further and reached Bailey Gap shelter. I spoke with some hikers I hadn’t met, as well as Cynthia and her dog Olive. Cynthia might be going by the trail name Torch, but she didn’t seem to onto trail names.
Most of the morning was spent climbing a long, rocky ridge. I stayed on top of the ridge for a while, just weaving in between boulders. The hiking was good and I felt like I had a good rhythm. I got to a sunny campsite around 11:30 and decided to break for lunch. I needed to change out my socks and air my feet, dry out my tent footprint and sleeping bag, and eat. I placed everything out to dry and sat to chow down. A young guy and a Canadian couple I had met at the shelter earlier this morning stopped to say hello. I can’t remember their trail names. Cynthia and Olive stopped briefly as well. I had a tuna packet that had rice and beans in it, and tortillas with Jif Maple for lunch.
I hiked on, planning on going about 17 miles to Laurel Creek Shelter. I made it to War Spur Shelter and saw Loner Boner hanging up a bunch of clothes on a clothesline there. I hadn’t seen him since the last shelter before Damascus! He calls himself the slowest thing on the trail, but he had been moving faster than I! I stopped to say hi and then to filter some water just after the shelter. At the creek there was a young couple just out for the day laying in a hammock on a small island in the creek. Once I had my water, I looked for a way to hope across the creek. It was a little precarious hopping the requisite rocks and I almost fell in! Once I got to the other side, I looked around and realized the trail didn’t cross the creek there. Drat! I thundered through the rhodo like a bull in a china shop looking for an easier place to get back to where I was. I ended up walking right by the couple’s hammock on their island. “Excuse me, pardon me, sorry to interrupt your private time on your intimate hammock island for two! Don’t mind me!” I made it back to the trail a bit embarrassed, and trekked on.
Around the bend from that lovely experience I heard the shrill, short cries of a bird of prey. I looked around and finally spotted some kind of hawk directly overhead. It was smallish and making a lot of racket, but when it took off to fly it did not look like a baby. I am not sure what kind of hawk it was. In Georgia we have a lot of red tailed hawks, but it did not look quite like one of those. I couldn’t see the coloring on its feathers to help with identification; I only saw its underbelly.
Later in the day there was a big long climb up to Kelly’s Knob. I saw Camo and Okie up there. I had met them way back at Uncle Johnny’s Nolichucky Hostel in Erwin, TN. The knob had fantastic views! I sat up on the craggy, southern portion of it and had a snack. Okie’s actual name is Kelly Keller, and my last name is Kelly, so we joked about that while sitting up there on our knob.
Laurel Creek Shelter was less than 2 miles from the knob, but I passed it by deciding to push a little over 2 more miles to a campsite. It was a good evening for hiking, and I also really wanted to make sure I get up to McAfee Knob, an iconic viewing point on the trail, on Sunday while the weather is still good. A few more miles today would help with that goal. I filtered water past the shelter and brought extra with me. Lately we have had some longer stretches between water sources, and I knew the campsite did not have water. Just around the bend from Laurel Creek I spooked a white-tailed deer, which bounded away across the trail and into a rhodo thicket. After climbing through a pine forest, the trail lush and cushy with needles, I went through several beautiful pastures. I saw three rabbits feeding in one, but they hopped away before I could get a picture. The sun low in the sky over the pasture was just gorgeous!
I climbed the last pasture, entered the tree line and my camp site was right there, affording me a sunset view over the meadow while I cooked and set up camp. It was a lovely evening! I decided to get up earlier tomorrow, so I even pre dug a cat hole for the morning! It is supposed to get down to 28 tonight, but it sure doesn’t feel like it will at the moment!
I am so grateful for the gorgeous weather today, with a high of about 55. It was perfect hiking weather! I am grateful for the awesome woodland creatures I saw today, as well as the even keel day of solo hiking that I had. I can’t wait for tomorrow!
#1 Thanks Kevin Nary! You are right - I’m pretty sure it was a Goldfinch. Good luck on your hike SOBO!!!