Decided to return to Roan Mountain TN and pick up where I left off. The bus ride was uneventful.
The big news? Two guys, “Whitey” and “Red-haired Stranger” – a father and his 15 y.o. Son – with whom I spent last Saturday night at MountainHarbour Hostel, drowned in Laurel Falls a couple of days NoBo from here. On July 4th or so.
They were a lot of fun, we’d spent the evening June 30th on the porch of the Mountain Harbour Hostel discussing all kinds of stuff, and when I watched them I could easily recall hiking with my own fifteen year old.
And of course, it was tragic. Evidently a good-sized waterfall – one drowned first and then other died trying to save him. Here is a video of the falls at high water.
I don’t plan to swim in the same spot.
Anyway, I myself am happy and healthy. It’s supposed to be hot but I will start early, take it slow and continue my practice of having a siesta.
July 8th General vicinity:
On the Trail northeast of Roan Mtn, TN. Done with NC altogether.
Saw a bear yesterday, first one of the trip. It ran away as fast as it could.
I took off early the morning of July 8th but it’s blasted hot (95+?) which forces me to slow down. A nice siesta by a stream this afternoon. I am seven miles into an 8.4 mile day. (update: my map was wrong. it was 9.6 miles…)
Moreland Gap Shelter, last one on Map #2. Then – we switch to Map #1!
We are supposed to have violent thunderstorms tonight then cooler weather.
Menu? Red beans and rice! Note: I am sick of cliff bars. Blech.
Nobody will ever know exactly what happened with the two guys who drowned, but I met two fly fishermen at a road crossing, and they told me the stream where the waterfall is, drains a valley ten miles long and two miles across. At the spot where the waterfall is, it comes through a narrow gorge and can expand in volume quite rapidly. Possibly took Whitey and Red-Headed Stranger by surprise.
The previous drowning there was in 2006. Small consolation. I am left to contemplate team backpacking – and my own father-daughter trips. I know one thing: if something had ever happened to Gummi Bear or SNAFU or Sam Gamgee on one of my trips, I would have rather been dead, myself.
I don’t plan to swim there. I am a cautious person. I will sit at the bottom and say a prayer.
Am safe, am well, expect to be in Damascus next weekend….********************************************************
Cumulative miles: approx 215
Monday July 9th, was sluggish all the way, from the start out of the shelter. “PJ” left first, and I had this feeling I would not see anybody else all day. (Yep, true). The map showed that it was only a six-mile hike to a road crossing where a choice of hostels awaited near Hermon, TN.
Looking forward to a third consecutive oppressively hot day, I marched off in trance-hiking slow mode – focusing on the ratio of breaths to steps so as not to generate more sweat than necessary. My pack was noticeably light since I left the tent and sleeping bag at my daughter’s house and had eaten some of the food. The long range forecast had been saying for days that a cooler front would move in, heralded by violent storms – but this was a tease. For now, rivulets of sweat from every pore, every inch of skin. Staying hydrated…..
In nonprosaic terms, I struggled with the heat. The sun did not merely beat down. No, it flailed down – heavier than ten backpacks.
The doom of Icarus!
Hail, Arjun’s Chariot!
O merciless star!
Porches and rocking chairs
I dawdled for the first three miles, finding four bars at a pleasant overlook and transacting e-business. Today’s snack was PB and M&Ms. Poked all the usual people on FaceBook.
Southern Porch Culture
A dear friend of my late brother now living near Harper’s Ferry inquired
“are you still coming north?”
To which I replied:
“I would dearly love to….. Even if only to sip something slowly, on your porch, with the dawgs afoot, while Jason cleans his guns, and a shy teenager listens politely to tales of bears and strangers.”
And her retort:
“You forgot the chickens. That part is very real here……”
(Oh, and she informs that state law allows taking of venison on the 10-acre property *as long as it is with bow and arrow.* It’s a damn shame my son-in-law will be out of the country.)
Choice of hostel
U.T., Whoopie Pie, and Lost Cause all said “go to Kincora.”
How to describe another jewel in the A.T. crown? The Kincora hostel is a rambling log cabin with ivy-covered walls and fieldstone chimneys. Serene, the hostel addition was built by a retired USAF couple in 1996. Nobody was home when I arrived, the sign said let yourself in so I did. I was enjoying lemonade on the porch when Bob Peoples, (the owner,) and a guy from his crew, returned from trail work they’d been doing to install switchbacks between Ash Gap and the summit of Roan Mountain.
He offered to take me into town *right then* but I said no hurry. He looked quietly relieved and went off to shower. Later we drove the twisty road to town. In Hermon, I bought ingredients for a salad; breakfast; and ice cream. I’ll have spaghetti and meat Tuesday evening.
One thing every through hiker does, is to get a photo of themselves at the finish of their through-hike, either in Maine or in Georgia.
To describe the motif of this hostel is easy: In lieu of wallpaper, they use Katahdin photos (or Springer photos). Hundreds and hundreds. On the ceiling here the class of 1997; on this other wall the class of 2003. OMG it’s like the Sistine Chapel, or a sports bar displaying bubblegum cards of all your favorite players. On the SyFy channel this would be some kind of exotic missing persons bureau….. Long distance hikers tend to just go missing for six months at a time. In every imaginable pose with the Katahdin summit signboard, exultantly waving arms in Victory. Sometimes snow whitens the tableland behind. Bearded mountain men. Wholesome vegan-ish looking women with braids……
“It’s only a section hike until you get to Katahdin or Springer” (Bob Peoples)
Every vertical surface covered. On all walls and the ceiling. Sure enough, by the door, there was Whoopie Pie’s photo with the class of 2010. She’d stayed here, joining the trail crew for a couple of days.
twelve degrees of separation
Bob came back by while I was eating noodles, I enjoyed his Boston accent as we chatted about trail reconstruction projects. Bob is the guru of the new trail switchbacks. The plan is to replace sections of straight-up-the-fall-line trail with curvy paths less susceptible to erosion and easier on the knees. The even grade of these is consistent and noticeable – I’d been wondering how they plan these. The team uses a surveyor’s transit and holds as close to twelve degrees as they can.
Bob works with teams of volunteers to maintain 168 miles of trail. A local prison also sends volunteers; they get time off their sentence for each day of labor. They are not, strictly speaking, a “chain gang.” Mostly drug offenders.
No TV/No WiFi/lots of old National Geographics
After dinner, earnest discussion of pool hydraulics at Laurel Fork Falls.
Tuesday July 10th
I awoke to the sound of rain with a sky dark as monsoon in Nepal. Gentle but rumbling in the distance. I want the humidity to break. I don’t want high water while hiking Laurel Falls Canyon. I watch it pour, from the picnic table on the covered porch. Glad I decided to zero here. I think I drank a gallon of water when I arrived yesterday.
Three maps down, one to go
Looking ahead, I now move to “Map # 1” – a mark of progress. I am told there is a seventeen-mile stretch between here and Damascus VA, where the small streams and springs were dormant. The new forecast is for rain on and off all week, which ought to freshen them up, otherwise there would be no water source for two days.
Mostly finished with big elevation changes for the time being. From here to Damascus, the trail gets on a ridge and makes a southwest-to-northeast beeline.
Saint Paul on the Trail?
It’s possible that on my way to Damascus I will come across the very spot where *Acts 9:3-10* occurred. I promise to get below the ridgeline if lightning threatens.
Wednesday morning July 11th
Round Two of rain last night, I was upstairs in the Kincora hostel and fell asleep to the sound of rain on the roof.
Note from the log book:
“We may take separate routes from here, but may we joyously meet again at that point where all paths merge into One”
July 11th evening
Took off thinking the rain was over. wrong.
confession: i skipped Pond Flat Mountain. okay, shoot me now. i am not a purist. it was raining, there was no view, even if there had been one, it would have been obscured, it was a thousand feet of P.U.D. – and – this is supposed to be fun!
I did stop at Laurel Falls. I took the “low-water route.”
“Every Time Bob Peoples creates a switchback an angel gets it’s wings”
Vandeventer Shelter ( near Shady Grove, TN) is at 4,500 ft elevation and fortunately, faces west, but even that is small consolation: the windy fog is blowing upwards into the shelter anyway!. We are “in the clouds” and tonight’s winds are about 20 mph from – the east. Today’s entire hike was through a fog-forest. The rains continue on and off; it’s about 60 degrees – prime hypothermia weather. As expected, the springs are now replenished and water is available.
got up to pee at 0300 and the ceiling was just high enough for me to see the twinkly lakeside lights below. On a nice summer evening, the view from here would be downright romantic…… Oh, and the shelter graffiti is all dedicated to Bob People’s – a candidate for the Dos Equis commercials….
pondering the TVA
I crossed Watauga Dam this morning. After seven miles and 2,000 ft vertical, I got here to the shelter early. I could have simply gone on to the next shelter, another seven miles, but I was reluctant to push myself that hard or risk hypothermia by hiking into the evening.
I had two hot meals here. rummaging through my food bag I decided it was time to break into my Spam Singles (I no longer eat Spam in HI….) I am wearing my dry stuff. I am well-hydrated and plenty warm. I am sharing the shelter with a chemistry teacher from Wooster MA who is skinny and complaining of the cold since the foot of his sleeping bag got wet and he has no polypro longjohns. Or extra woolen socks.(I have both.)
If he were female I’d invite him to cuddle over here. But – he is not. He declined my offer of soup and/or hot chocolate as well. Alas!
In Your Dreams, Catch-Up
(update: who was I kidding when I wrote that? there is trail decorum to consider…. I am not that “forward” of a person….and any woman sassy enough to be on the Trail by themself, would also be too proud to admit she was cold. I’d get maced in less than ten seconds…..)
And so. I actually do prefer this cooler weather over the heat we’d been having. I want to see if I can crank out some miles tomorrow. The forecast is for rain until Tuesday; I might also simply get to the next road crossing and hitch a ride to Damascus – the hostel there is inexpensive and hey! I am on vacation. This is better than the heat……..
They say Damascus VA is a jewel of the south…….
divining identity through canine markers…
A caution: previously somebody left a scented candle at Vandeventer shelter – vanilla. It now has a set of teeth marks in it that seem to go with what I imagine *ursus americanus* to possess. They have a good sense of smell and like to explore aromatous things…….
Listening to the rain patter on the corrugated tin roof, wishing you were all here with me…..
I made sure to hang my food in a bear bag…….