Don loved to hunt. So today when a deer crossed the road as Diane drove Molar Man and me back to the trail at Carvers Gap, I thought of my brother. And like all the other days I’ve hiked, his memory remained fresh on my mind throughout the day. With what at times seemed to be unending, indescribable views from three balds, I took more pictures than on any other day thus far. It’s truly impossible to put into words the majestic vistas I experienced today.
Even though the sun shone brightly as Molar Man and I began today’s 18.3 miles, it was cold! I don’t mean chilly. It was cold! My ears and hands were especially susceptible to the frigid conditions going over Jane Bald. My hands felt frozen even though I was wearing gloves. My ears ached due to the harsh winds, until I stopped to affix the hood of my rain jacket. The wind chill had to have been in the teens. I can’t remember this severe a wind chill on any of my winter long runs.
Despite the cold conditions, the views, which never ceased all morning, were mesmerizing. We walked downhill for about four miles, passing Stan Murray Shelter and a blue blazed trail leading to Overmountain Shelter, a converted barn that sleeps 20. The trail then climbed about 800 feet, culminating with an ascent of Little Hump Mountain which afforded a view back to the Ovemountain Shelter. There’s a pic included in this post.
Molar Man and I hiked strong all day. A mile descent followed Little Hump before we began the climb up Hump Mountain. The ascent challenged us, but the 360 views more than made up for our efforts. The AT Guide, which warns of several false summits, was accurate. About three-fourths of the way up, Molar Man and I took refuge behind a large rock to enjoy some lunch. While we were stopped, two northbounders, Paisley and Mr. Gigglefits, paused to say hello. We would see the couple from Maine many times throughout today’s hike. We also saw and talked with Two Sticks on three occasions.
After summiting Hump Mountain, the trail gradually descended for the next five miles. At one point a section of medium to large boulders made for some treacherous maneuvering. As we made our way to HWY 19E, we met and talked with section hikers Shonna and Dan from Cary, NC. Shonna said she looked forward to following my journal. We also crossed the NC/TN border for the last time. Since the Smokies, the trail has zigzagged between the two states. Until Virginia, the trail now will remain in Tennessee.
When Molar Man and I reached the road, Diane was waiting with snacks. She was also providing trail magic for Paisley and Mr. Gigglefits. After a brief respite we headed on across the road to begin the final 3.3 miles of today’s hike. Shortly after, a bizarre event occurred. Out of nowhere a white and black spaniel looking dog appeared. He raced past us, did an abrupt U-turn, zoomed past in the opposite direction, and sat down in a large mud puddle. After wallowing briefly, he charged away in the direction from which he had originally come. The dog never barked, nor did he slow down. Don would have liked the mystery dog.
So for the final short section the trail again seemed rather nondescript. We did pass a cemetery just before reaching Buck Mountain Rd. where Diane was waiting to take us to Elizabethon for the night. After checking in, I walked a little ways up the highway to a Lone Star Steakhouse, where I had one of the best sirloins I have ever tasted. No one said a thru hike had to be drudgery. I’m looking forward to another 20 plus day tomorrow as Molar Man and I venture onward on the Appalachian Trail.