Day 6: June 29, 2017
A quiet morning to hike. Ten miles, then boom, my trip to North Carolina would be over. Back to Maryland, back to everyday life. I was looking forward to getting back home even though the mountains in NC have been delightful to hike.
This hike had Momma Puma shuttling me to a trail head for the last time. Afterwards, she would be off on her own adventure and we planned on meeting up at Google’s cabin in the evening.
A quiet morning with sounds of grass brushing against my hiking pants broken by the occasional cry of a bird or crunch of tires on the fire road. I watched as the sky clouded up, to the point I thought rain was imminent, then, in a blink, the sun would break through and make the forest glow.
The trail passed by a campsite before the Bartram trail diverged to the right. I took a little break there. I sat back against a tree and thought about the week I’d had hiking here in NC. The mountains are just so darn dramatic!
Rounding a corner near Wilson Lick trail, I heard a crash and looked up to see a bear butt running up hill! How exciting!
I moved on down the trail with a smile…yes, wildlife, finally!
The AT crossed the fire road a few times before reaching the paved road at Wayah Gap.
Now, I was going to be headed uphill for awhile and hopefully, hopefully I wouldn’t miss the turn-off for Siler Bald! More people, actually a lot of people were on this stretch of trail. That made the trip up seem shorter and the variety of body types made me think this “up” wouldn’t be too bad. The uphill did go up for a good ways, though! Definitely break worthy, so I found a nice log and had a snack. It was getting humid, whew!
And I missed the turn-off for Siler Bald!!! Unbelievable. I saw the sign for the shelter, but nothing for the bald. So I backtracked. ugh! But I knew I would regret not going to the bald!
Having had my most excellent view from Siler Bald, I was ready to hoof it down to Winding Stair Gap. However, I had to cross through Panther Gap first…and I was in a silly mood by then as I was on a very warm and humid mile 8. Coming down into Panther Gap, I thought, “why do they have to call it Panther Gap? Why not kitty cat gap? or Hello Kitty gap?…what if there really are panthers in Panther Gap? Wait, is a panther the same as a cougar? a mountain lion? I wonder if they are black?…”
Then I stopped to stretch my neck…too much looking at the ground.
OH. MY. GAWD. I looked hard, not believing what I was seeing. Tan color…Is that a bobcat? No, that is a long droopy swinging tail!!! The cat, kitty, panther, cougar, mountain lion, whatever you want to call it was about 25 yards in front of me casually walking down the AT away from me!!! Holy moly!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He paused for a moment to look over its shoulder at me. A sweet little head with rounded ears, no tufts, definitely NOT a bobcat,…I quickly inhaled then clicked my hiking poles together. (No need for him to get too curious.) He turned back around and began to trot down the trail. I waited, gave him time to find a safe spot before I walked on.
He was no where to be seen when I passed through.
I felt so blessed, wow, so, so blessed to have this cat make his presence known. exhale. We all share this one world. All creatures great and small.