Appalachian Trail: N.C. Section 25

We had a fantastic 2.5-day backpacking trip in North Carolina last week while down there for a graduation. Here’s the notes right from my trail journal. Photos and a link to our video of that hike are below.

Day 1: August 11. Rock Gap to Long Branch Shelter

Spent the previous night at our friend’s family cabin in Otto, NC. Then he helped us on this morning to drop our car at Deep Gap and drive us up to our start at Rock Gap. As it’s a big loop here, it wasn’t far between trail heads. We met shuttle driver Jim there who gave us lucky stones and his card, just in case we needed a bailout as our friend was headed home to Charleston after dropping us off.  A beautiful short 3.8 mile hike up to Long Branch shelter – it was at 4,500 feet and had a great water source and brand new shelter. It’s on a steep slope but the shelter and tent pads were placed in flatter areas.  We made a fire in the legal fire ring to ward off bugs and since we had a lot of time there, and chatted a bit with Rusty Jane, who was hiking half the trail and only had 100 miles to go. Coincidentally, Jim had shuttled her this afternoon to her starting point at Winding stair gap so we knew about her before we met!

Day 2: August 12. Long Branch Shelter to Carter Gap Shelter

Some big climbs and bigger views. The descent off Albert Mountain was steep but we were glad to go down it. Our new knee sleeves really helped on these steep downhills. No view at the fire tower but got great views from a ledge on Big Butt and even better (including  Pickens Nose) from Little Ridgepole mountain. Sad to see all the trash in all the fire rings but its usually locals and not thru hikers.  Met a father and son out for a section hike at the shelter. Enjoyed their company and campfire.  Had an unexpected heavy downpour overnight but no biggie as its our last night out.

Day 3: August 13. Carter Gap Shelter to Deep Gap

Dried things out for a bit and then opted to hike to the next water source a few miles down trail rather than the one at the shelter as it was a trickle and down a steep hill.  When we got to the creek south of Beech Gap I also changed my socks and put on some band aids as the 2 days in the same socks was giving me hot spots despite my best efforts to clean my feet.  We also had another snack and filled up both our water supplies. The band aids and new socks worked but the trail up Standing Indian was completely overgrown and wet and swarming with bees, and the trail was eroded in many spots and I almost slipped off the trail. My left leg saved my right one which wanted to go off the edge of the eroded trail. And I didn’t see it because of the soaked, overgrown, shoulder-high plants. Going to email the trail club there.  So my shoes and eventually my socks and bandaids soaked too but they managed to hold on until we got to the car. At the  top of the long climb up Standing Indian we met a man named Erik who had taken the lower ridge trail up from Standing Indian Campground and he and I hiked to the view at the summit which was incredible. Sad to see the camping area up there also littered with trash. PLEASE, Leave it better than you found it! Then it was a steep descent of many switchbacks to Deep Gap and our car.

Watch the video here.

Miles day 1: 3.8

Miles day 2: 9.4

Miles day 3: 9.2

— Linus

About to hit the trail at Rock Gap

About to hit the trail at Rock Gap

At the Rock Gap trailhead

At the Rock Gap trailhead

Water at Long Branch

Water at Long Branch

Into the Gap

Into the Gap

Downy Rattlesnake Plantain

Downy Rattlesnake Plantain

Long Branch Shelter

Long Branch Shelter

Our tentsite at Long Branch Shelter

Our tentsite at Long Branch Shelter

What a bunch of fungis

What a bunch of fungis

No view today

No view today

Or from the tower

Or from the tower

The descent off Albert

The descent off Albert

Snails enjoying Carter Gap campsite mushrooms

Snails enjoying Carter Gap campsite mushrooms

Overgrown as can be

Overgrown as can be

Another Gap

Another Gap

The southerly summit view from Standing Indian

The southerly summit view from Standing Indian

Scarlet Beebalm

Scarlet Beebalm

Humans can be very disappointing

Humans can be very disappointing

Enough Said

Enough Said

Carter Gap Shelter

Carter Gap Shelter

Pickens Nose from Little Ridgepole Mountain

Pickens Nose from Little Ridgepole Mountain

Stunning view from the ledge

Stunning view from the ledge

Classic North Carolina Rhododendron Tunnel

Classic North Carolina Rhododendron Tunnel

Blue Swallowtail on Standing Indian summit

Blue Swallowtail on Standing Indian summit

FIelden just north of Deep Gap

FIelden just north of Deep Gap

The last mile

The last mile

End of hike feet!

End of hike feet!

A.T. Beer!

A.T. Beer!

Beer blazing at the Lazy Hiker in Franklin!

Beer blazing at the Lazy Hiker in Franklin!

A.T. Thru-Class banners at Lazy Hiker

A.T. Thru-Class banners at Lazy Hiker

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Ridgerunner Weekend #4, Bulls Bridge and Ten Mile River

For this weekend I covered the New York border up to the Bull’s Bridge. While not a lot of miles I added a few by doing a loop past the campsites up to the market for a root beer, and then back to the campsite. I did that again the second day, without the stop at the market. I met many nobo and sobo thru hikers, and a mom supporting her 15 year old thru hiker. I helped them with advice on town resources, itineraries, shelter and campsite options and conditions and had some fantastic conversations with them all about trail names and hiking in general.

I really enjoy this part of the job. There are a lot of great people out there on their journies and I love to hear their stories. One of my favorite moments of the weekend was saying “welcome to Connecticut” to a thru hiker just as he was entering our section and I was reaching the end of my shift at the New York border. He said thanks and then I heard him holler gleefully as he reached the Connecticut sign and I smiled as I walked in the opposite direction. I really felt like a trail ambassador and representative of this fine section in that moment.

Another great moment was going down to the river after setting up my camp to see our resident blue Heron we named Jim. He stood on a rock about 30 feet across the river near the opposite bank and posed there for about 30 minutes while I sketched him from the beach. I also came across a raspberry patch which gave me a boost of energy and morale.

The bugs were merciless and the humidity was pretty bad, but I always enjoy and embrace the suck because it is always so special to be out there. It heals me so. I will be headed down to North Carolina in a week to do 2-3 days of hiking there with Fielden Stream. Those glorious balds should bee just the therapy we need to deal with a bunch of difficult things we’re dealing with right now.

I brought my hammock out again after using it in my yard at home a few times and getting more comfortable in it. I also realized its more comfortable for me without a pad. So I will either need to get an underquilt or just use it in the dead middle of summer when its 70+ degrees at night. On this night it dropped to around 59 and being right near the river, it was colder, and I had an hour or so where it was a bit uncomfortable and I really bundled up but this is also because I brought my summer 55 degree bag not my 24 degree down bag.  I will find the right combinations, as its really much gentler on my back! I tried the inflatable pillow and while I like it, it slid around a lot in the hammock, so when hammocking I might stick to my current clothing bag pillow technique. It’s easier to keep in place.

And I finally tried out my Dirty Girl Gaiters my daughter got me and loved them!  So they will be a regular item going forward.  I really got into the zone this time out. I just really wanted and needed to be out there very much this time. I joked with my wife when I returned and was in a bit of a transition fog that I had re-adapted to my wild origins like a runaway animal does when in the wild too long. If only I could stay out much longer. One day.

Photos below.

Miles day 1: 6.2

Miles day 2: 5.7

— Linus

Welcome to Connecticut!

Welcome to Connecticut!

A beautiful scene

A beautiful scene

Rt 55 trail entrance

Rt 55 trail entrance

The trail above the Housatonic

The trail above the Housatonic

The trail along the Housatonic

The trail along the Housatonic

A tale of two trail snacks

A tale of two trail snacks

LIvin in a bag down by the river

LIvin in a bag down by the river

The Housatonic

The Housatonic

Jim the blue Heron

Jim the blue Heron

My sketchbook and trail journal

My sketchbook and trail journal

Running the ridges

Running the ridges

Looking upriver from the campsite

Looking upriver from the campsite

Winding up that hill

Winding up that hill

My new dirty girl gaiters

My new dirty girl gaiters

So humid my shirt is drenched with sweat

So humid my shirt is drenched with sweat