Carvers Gap, Tennessee [mile 377]
I quit a couple of hours early today for one reason: I’m freezing! When I checked the weather in Erwin, they were predicting a shoe freeze for tonight and/or tomorrow night. There were snow piles up on Roan Mountain.
I was talking to another early March starter, and we kind of have this weather PTSD. When it starts to get cold like this, out come all the fears and emotions from a month ago! Get dry! Get warm! Avoid hypothermia! Anyway, I wanted to pick my site and get hunkered down before the shoe freeze. It’s good, anyway. An early night usually leads to an early morning. I do hear some locals off in the distance. Kids, I think; hopefully they’re just out for the sunset and not to party all night or pick on foreign hikers!
I got up and out of Greasy Creek Hostel as fast as I could manage this morning. The proprietor was sweet, but the place was a dump. On the other hand, I met some nice hikers—a whole lot of them—and did exactly what I’d intended: I topped off my food bag and I slept out of the rain.
Fifteen had some news. The Postman has left the trail (home stuff rather than an injury). That’s sad. I liked him a lot, and I was hoping to get a chance to thank him for being so kind to me when I had the plague. Also, Hey Everybody, who I met at Drunken Bear, was doing work for stay. He has a bad Achilles injury and needed to rest it for a few days. His plan is to baby it to Damascus, and if it’s no better, he’ll have to get off the trail for an evaluation and maybe surgery.
People leave the trail all the time.
The morning was cold! Actually, the whole day was nippy; I wore gloves off and on all day. It was sunny, though. It must have rained hard. The early morning sun caught droplets of water on the pine trees and turned the forest to diamond.
So, today was the day of reckoning. Roan Mountain. Back up to the 6000s.
Oh! Heh. I met a character today. If you saw the AT movie Southbounders, you know Slackpack? The guy with the relentless advice? Yeah, him. The guy didn’t look like Slackpack. This hiker was retired. And he told me I was lifting my pack wrong (after seeing me do it once), and I was carrying too much water and too much food. He criticized my planned itinerary for the next leg. He criticized my clothing choices. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was when I told him I was stopping for a break (one of my new foot breaks), and he started berating me for taking breaks. He told me I need to start going all day long so I can get more miles. LOL. He couldn’t even hear me when I tried to explain that I gave up that system just last week.
There are so many personalities out here! It takes all of us to make this circus what it is. It’s a big trail, too. No need to stay close to any particular person. 🙂
Roan Mountain was stupendous. It’s what I thought Unaka Mountain would be: rocks and spruce trees, fragrant and shadowed. The trail up Roan was a bit of an engineering marvel. I’m struck every day at the massive effort expended to build and maintain this trail, all by volunteers.
I was going to stop at Roan High Knob Shelter, the highest and coldest shelter on the trail, for a picture, but it was getting late and I wanted to get to lower elevation to camp. And I’m glad I didn’t take the time; the trail down was a trench full of foot-crushing, ankle-rolling rocks. Had to take it slow, and I still rolled my ankles ten or twenty times.
And that’s it! One day closer to Damascus. Looks like tomorrow is mostly down. Hopefully it’ll be a little warmer!