This was perhaps the most enjoyable day I’ve had hiking the AT since I began the venture four weeks ago today. Cool, sunny conditions prevailed throughout the day; I hiked the entire 14.8 miles with Molar Man; and the 2000 foot climb up Roan Mountain was exhilarating. With plentiful views and good company, the day zipped by.
After I partook of a waffle and coffee breakfast at the motel, Diane drove Molar Man and me up to Iron Mountain Gap. At the gap we met Food Walker, who was waiting for his wife, Tracy McG, who was completing a section south of us. Also there was Pete, a weekender who was packing in a steak to cook over the campfire tonight. Pete walked with Molar Man and me for a while before we pulled away. He pointed out patches of ramps, a type of wild onion along the trail. Having hiked this part of the trail many times before, Pete identified mountains in the distance and offered information on other aspects of the trail between Iron Mountain and Roan.
With the beautiful weather Molar Man and I hiked briskly throughout the morning. Just about the time we reached Little Rock Knob, Risk It, a young lady from NY, and Salad Days from Maine, passed by. Salad Days wears the same trail runners that I’m hiking in, Brooks Cascadias, so I took a picture of our shoes as we stood side by side. Risk It hiked with MM (Molar Man) and me for a while, leading the way while we momentarily picked up our pace.
When we reached Hughes Gap, Becky and Dan, from Atlanta, were providing trail magic. They also have a home on Roan Mountain and were up for a visit. Dan, a marathon runner as well, plans to thru hike next year. The Dr. Pepper, crackers, and candy were greatly appreciated.
Diane had also parked at the gap to bring some lunch for Molar Man. Risk It, Salad Days, and Woodman also showed up to participate in the magic.
Immediately after leaving Hughes Gap, we began the ascent of Roan Mountain with an elevation of 6194 feet. Since switchbacks were plentiful and Molar Man and I were tandem hiking, the first of the two climbs did not prove to be too difficult. With a couple of rest stops, we made good time reaching the top of the mountain. At the higher elevation, ice again appeared, along with ice crystals on the trees. The Fraser Firs seemed Christmas-like. We failed to notice a sign indicating Roan Mountain Shelter, which is the highest shelter on the entire AT.
On the way down from Roan, we met three section hikers from Lexington, NC. Graham, Randy, and Michael listened compassionately as I told them about Don. Michael said he regularly followed thru hikers as they made their north and vowed to make my journal one that he read. After walking away from the three, Molar Man and I had to deal with an extremely rocky descent as we made our way down Roan Mountain. Still, we made good time, arriving at Carvers Gap around 3:00. Diane was waiting for the return trip to Erwin.
It was definitely a privilege to be able to hike all day with Molar Man. A retired dentist from Ohio, MM also has an engineering degree. We seem to hike about the same pace, so I’m looking forward to joining him on tomorrow’s hike as well. It’s days like today, with picture perfect weather, great company, and an array of hikers and trail angels alike, that make my thru hiking adventure such a rewarding one. Thanks to all who made today a special one on the Appalachian Trail.