Wilbur Dam Road [mile 429.3]
Back with the pen and paper! I’ve taken so many photos the last few days that the battery’s down to about 20%. And I’d hate to be without a camera on any days like the last two have been.
Woke up next to my beautiful river. The tent hadn’t dried, but rain wasn’t actively falling. In fact, it looked as though the sky in the east over the mountain may have been brightening with a distinct yellow.
Sun? Really? Joy!
The trail treated me to an immediate uphill, and the wet gear felt like lead. At about 10 AM I found a clearing and spread everything out. While my feet dangled and I ate tuna, the wet stuff dried—more or less. Overhead the blue was marred by fat clouds with gray petticoats. All day the rain threatend.
Quite a few hikers passed me. They were either just back from Hampton with bellies full of town food, or rushing to get that way. I bypassed Hampton. Damascus, here I come!
Around lunchtime the trail ran right into a gorgeous recreational area: picnic tables, a lake for swimming. And two HUGE luxuries—a flush toilet and trash cans. Trash cans! Heaven! I’ve accumulated about a pound of trash in the last seven days since Erwin.
After making use of both luxuries, I sat at a picnic table and swing my legs… over water. The lake level had risen hard. Some of the tables were under water all the way up to the tabletops; they looked like floating slabs of cement.
And the trail had flooded and was temporarily redirected! Yikes! Signs were posted. The detour involved a long road walk and two irritated stray dogs.
When the detour reconnected, the trail turned gorgeous: the same carpet of pine needles, the same tumult of weeds, but now the trail looped all the way around that placid lake. Because of the flooding, the water lapped right at the trail in places.
More uphill, then BOOM! Another dam. I’ve gone from seeing no dams ever to two in a month. This was Watauga Dam, holding back water like pristine slate. On the other side, though, a scarred crater and heavy machinery. Wonder what they’re building?
I got my 12 in and had to call it quits. My feet are killing me, and next comes a 1500-foot elevation climb over 4 miles. Ugh. I couldn’t start that at dinnertime. Odds are I wouldn’t have gotten to the top before 9 PM, and then I’d still have to find a site. I’m not up to night hiking yet!
This isn’t the best location—right next to a road, which can sometimes set you up for trouble with local mischief makers. But it’s a weeknight and school’s still in session. I’d rather have more water, too, but what I have should get me to the next spring. Especially if I start early before the day gets hot. After that climb, the terrain looks pretty even all the way to Damascus.
That rain? It never did come. 🙂