Catawba Mountain Shelter [mile 705.7]
Seven-hundred miles, baby! Seems like only a week ago it was 600! 😉 Cause for celebration!
Camping is restricted here in the McAfee Knob area. It’s Memorial Day Sunday. And this little camping area has me… and a bunch of guys here to party. They’re hammering, hammering, hammering. Is it wood? They’re chopping a massive amount of wood? And I smell lighter fluid? This doesn’t bode well for them knowing about hiker midnight! It might be the night to break open a fresh pair of earplugs.
This was a gorgeous day. It started out rocky—I mean literally rocky. The Dragon’s Tooth section from yesterday wasn’t quite finished; I hadn’t gotten quite as far as Lost Spectacles Gap. Which is excellent news, if you wear glasses and are superstitious.
When i did get to the Gap, it was flat and lovely… and guess what was finally in bloom? The rhododendrons! Great happy bursts of fuscia tucked among the waxy dark leaves. The trail went up and up in an area that felt like the Pacific Northwest to me, although I’ve never been there. I think it was the spruce trees. At least, I think they were spruces. Anyway, the trees interrupted great piles of rock that had to be crawled over or squeezed between. Fun again!
Eventually came the descent, and the half-mile roadwalk to the Catawba Market—a gas station and grocery store with a little grill inside. I got a breakfast sandwich and two cups of coffee, and some miscellaneous snacks and things to get me to Daleville. Outside was a veritable United Nations of hikers—two Germans and a guy from Israel. OK, a very small United Nations.
My favorite day of hiking: two days out from town when the food bag is nearly empty, and you hit a little grocery store for snacks! For lunch today I had nutritious and healthy circus peanuts (high-fructose corn syrup and orange dye no. 3) and Pringles (delicious, delicious slices of salted particle board). For dinner I had Oreos. How many Oreos? All of them!
After the grocery the trail went through a huge meadow. The grass was waist high, the sky was blue, and there were more varieties of butterlies than I’ve ever seen: blue ones, purple ones, black ones with blue wingtips. The sky was blue, too—so blue and perfect that it was hard not to smile. So I smiled!
At the top of the meadow hill the trail slipped back into shadow. The trees were thick, and the terrain was soft. Uphill and downhill, but soft. It smelled like pine. And eventually it went down, down, down to a parking lot full of cars. There must have been 60 of them! Then I remembered that it’s Memorial Day weekend, and that McAfee Knob is on the other side of the road. McAfee Knob—supposedly the most photographed site on the whole trail. It’s another one of those famous areas you can Google for images. And the dayhikers and weekenders are here in force!
I decided to camp here and tackle the Knob in the morning. Tomorrow’s another short day, then I’ll get into Daleville on Tuesday.
I ran into some familiar faces today. Remember back at Wayah Bald Shelter? Freezing rain for two days, snow overnight, and my tent ended up flooding? There were two guys in the shelter that night. And one of them is in this bubble. He was off the trail for three weeks, but he’s back. I keep forgetting his trail name, which kills me. Famous explorer, or a cowboy… hrm. It’ll come to me as soon as I hit ‘publish.’ Cody… oh, crap. I forget. Anyway, nice to see him. I also saw Planet and Rig… or heard them, anyway. They went past here while I was changing, so I couldn’t run out to chat. They recognized my tent, though, and gave a shoutout.
Tomorrow: McAfee Knob! But alas, I’m out of Oreos. I tell you, I’m sick of fast food. All I eat in town is cheeseburgers. pizza, and a salad—which usually means iceburg lettuce and a cherry tomato. I wonder if Daleville has a restaurant that’s not a fast food place or a diner? I just have the urge for an actual meal. With a vegetable.
I went a little crazy with the pictures today. Sorry about that!