I woke early but laid in my sleeping bag, waiting for the rain to stop. The storm wasn’t bad – just saturating. Although I was awake at 6:00, I didn’t start packing in earnest until 7:00. By 7:30, I could hear everyone pre-packing in their tents from within my own tent. A conversation about the weather ensued.
Medicine Man was checking the radar and thought he saw a break in the storm. Sure enough, by 8:30, the rain slowed. Just as I had taken the rainfly off my tent, the skies opened up. I scrambled to pack up my tent in the downpour.
By the time I finally closed my pack and covered it with my pack cover, the rain slowed. Too late for me – my tent was saturated and my pack was drenched. I started my hike in shorts with gaiters covering my socks and boots, wearing my rain jacket over my hiking shirt. It was brisk but the rapid ascent out of Erwin quickly warmed me up. I was near the end of the line.
The trail out of Erwin follows several streams that flow towards the Nolichucky – I noticed that soon I would be ascending into the clouds.
After reconvening at Curly Gap Shelter for snacks, the group marched on, heading for Indian Grave Gap 5 miles away. The weather was brisk, but the terrain was relatively flat – I finally got moving.
It’s a rare day that we’re all on the same page, but as we pulled into Indian Grave, the seven of us were within ten minutes of each other. We had a quick lunch and considered our options – the forecast (as best we knew it) still called for more rain.
By this time, it was 2:00pm and conversation switched to logistics. We could either stop in 4 miles after summiting Beauty Spot or stop in 9 miles after summiting Unaka Mountain. Both were very doable. I left Indian Gap very much undecided.
I kept up for much of today’s hike, even set the pace for a few miles. I had the legs to go on, but then I hit Beauty Spot.
I read about Beauty Spot in trail journals for years, that it was a mini Max Patch with awesome views. When I finally arrived, I was still sacked in the same fog I had been hiking in all day.
I think I was screwing around with my headphones, but I swear I could feel the sun on the back of my neck. I turned around and saw the sun trying to break through the clouds. Pretty neat picture, I thought.
Within five minutes, I kid you not, the clouds started breaking up. The view, the very experience, was stunning! I starting laughing out loud in very real happiness. For the first time all day, I was catching glimpses of blue skies and green valleys. I can’t wait to upload pics from my digital camera.
I was slow decending Beauty Spot and made my way towards the base of Unaka Mountain. I crossed a USFS (forest service) road and was almost surprised to see everyone tenting in the gap. As I emerged into the clearing, I immeadiately understood why.
The combination of bright sunlight and brisk wind created that win- tunnel drying effect I had last experienced in Bag’s Creek Gap with Savage and Kool-Aid.
I ended up stringing my bear bag rope up as a clothesline and drying my tent in the breeze – after an hour, it was bone dry. I made camp and cooked a hearty dinner, snapping one last shot of camp before I retired to my tent.
My goal is to wake early and move quickly. Despite the terrain, I want to make it to the base of Roan Mountain tomorrow, some 21 miles away. Damascus is about 115 miles away – I have six days left.
I did a lot of thinking today about life after trail, whatever that my look like. No real conclusions, but I did make a few resolutions.
Breakfast: White Chocoate Macadamia Nut Clif Bar, Sierra Mix Clif Bar
Snack: Little Debbie Raisin Creme Pie
Lunch: 2 beef jerky tortilla roll ups, almonds/peanuts
Snack: Little Debbie Frosted Brownie
Dinner: beef gravy mac and cheese with bacon bits, 2 tortillas, a shared bag of peach gummies.