Day 1 Deep Gap to Carter Gap Shelter 6/24/2017
Oh how fitting, how absolutely perfectly perfect in a way that is just not cool, not cool at all!! When I finished the Georgia section (a few years back) I ended by splashing down the trail turned creek into Deep Gap.
On Saturday morning, my hiking buddy, Momma Puma, and I set off for Deep Gap in a heavy, dripping fog. You know the kind. It wets the roads, damps down sound, and makes mountains disappear. I dropped my car at Winding Stair, then jumped in with Momma Puma for the ride down to Deep Gap on the fire road. We wound around on that road so long that we both were convinced we had somehow missed Deep Gap!
A magical, if a little messy, start to our traverse from Deep Gap to Winding Stair (then eventually the NOC). “Welcome back” I heard the woods whisper as I slipped past the first white blaze.
I glanced back at Momma Puma a couple of times. This was her first long distance backpack and she was visibly excited! I remember that feeling…the awe, the nervousness, then the reality of climbing the first big hill. The loss of confidence, the gaining of confidence, then the reality that every hike, every backpack, no matter how many I have completed, brings the loss and gain of confidence…every.single.one. ! 😀
The first day was a gain in confidence for me. Standing Indian is not as hard a climb as it looks on the map.
Before we knew it we were cruising into the Carter Gap Shelter while still early in the afternoon. And just in time…soon after we arrived so did the rain. A few others came in after us and then…Torrential for about 10 minutes. I was feeling pretty dry, happy, and quite literally, smug, until I realized the shelter was leaking ON MY BAG. Could this get any better?
After the rain, a few more hikers showed up. And let me tell you, this was the worst bunch of shelter mates I have ever had, in terms of bear safety, that is. No one was going to hang their food. These two younger guys were literally going to leave their dirty dishes in the shelter (near to where I had put my sleeping pad, mind you!). A man with a dog was throwing chunks of cheese to his dog…who missed several times and would not eat the crumbs off the ground. SERIOUSLY??? NO. NO. NO!!!!! Momma Puma and I were incredulous. Speechless. Are these people for real????
We, Momma Puma and I, contemplated putting up our tents down the hill…but with the rain threatening, decided we would stick with the shelter.
We began reciting every story we knew of a bear coming in because someone had barely sneezed cheese crumbles in their tent. hahaaaa! 🙂 🙂
Thank you to Laralee Bliss for the recent story about the tent snooping bear in Shenandoah NP. It did the trick. I don’t know how they hung their bags and don’t care. They all got their food out of the shelter. And we had a quiet night…for the most part. There was talk of an animal crashing through by Momma Puma, but I heard nothing in my Benedryl induced slumber.
Day 2 Carter Gap to Long Branch Shelter 6/25/2017
We were up and moving the next morning as others in the shelter were just starting breakfast and I was happy to move on…hoping the food offenders would not show up at the next shelter!
The trail was quite exciting between Carter Gap and Long Branch. I was hoping to walk through some of the fire damage from last fall’s fire and boy, did we ever. Miles of burned out areas left us in an indescribable state. I was floored. I have never seen anything like the fire damage we hiked through.
Just after Mooney Gap, there is the area I will just refer to as the land between the fire roads. It started off innocently enough with a nice climb through rhododendron bushes, but then circled the mountain and became a cliff side walk…one wrong step…haha! And then, the big event of the day…Albert Mountain! I was looking forward to this in the same way I was looking forward to Lehigh Gap when I hiked Pennsylvania. However, I knew less about Albert Mountain. Was it really a rock scramble? It was fitting that I was set to climb it on my dad, Albert Cross’ birthday! What a way to celebrate, too bad there was no birthday cake at the top for me! 🙂
Albert was a combination of rock scramble and stairs. Without a backpack on, it would have been a lot more fun, for sure! With the backpack, it made me nervous, then made me feel like a badass. I would definitely climb it again! At the top, sans birthday cake, was a great fire tower with great views. Wonderful payoff!
It began to sprinkle while we were taking a break at the fire tower. To don the rain poncho to not…
We descended the mountain, passing the old location of the shelter. It was a rough, but exciting day of hiking!
We were plum tuckered out when we reached the Long Branch. Thoughts of my dinner kept me going…I packed an avocado! Downright exciting! Dinner was Capellini with tuna and avocado…and it was exceptional!!! Afterwards I crashed in this most beautiful of shelters. 🙂
Day 3 Long Branch to Winding Stair Gap
Morning came and I set out to retrieve our bear bags. No one else was awake so I sat out on a stump and watched far off mountains go from black to purple to pinkish to blue. I stretched out my legs and my arms. I felt so at home here in the woods this morning. It was so quiet.
We made the last day of our first section without incident. We were both sporting new aches…Momma Puma strained her knee on Albert… and I had a few raw spots on my heels from blisters. The blisters irritated me. I had hiked several miles on rockier terrain than this with no blisters before this hike. The only thing I can think is that the added weight of the pack caused my feet to rub differently. Oh well, the NOC is calling…wrap them up, put on those boots and hike on!