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April 26, 2018 / Comments (2)

WEEK #6 Erwin, Roane Highlands, and Easter

WEEK # 6

3/29 – 4/2

Erwin to Roane Highlands & an Easter Zero

This is another “short” week as I try to group days with some logic and theme. I had a particularly nice stay in “Erwin” at the Cantarroso Farm. Erwin is not really a trail town like Hot Springs or some other stops. The trail does not really go near the limited, old “downtown” and hikers must go even further west to arrange resupply or meals at the more modern, commercial interstate exit area around a Walmart. Hence, my little cabin near the rapids on the river was
beautiful, quiet and peaceful.

I enjoyed the hike out of as it followed the river and worked its way through rhododrendron gardens. The objective was a grassy bald called the Beauty Spot. I was met with my first traditional “trail magic” as Brother T from a Christian ministries hosted a number of us with comfortable folding chairs, beverages, zucchini bread, brownies and fruit. (It’s hard to explain
adequately how nice it is to sit on a device deigned for that purpose – normally we look for a reasonably large downed tree or a rock ledge, etc.) We got to enjoy the views atop the Beauty Spot and a large group of us camped together – hanging out hoping for a sunset and then socializing around the first real campfire I enjoyed all trip.

Just as it happened around Hot Springs, we thought for a day or so that spring might finally be arriving. But no, that day was closed the following morning as we climbed Unaka Mountain in a cold, windy rain. The cold stayed with us so we had to just punch out the miles and stay warm by hiking. We went heading for the famed Roane Highlands and I had a zero day planned to celebrate Easter. I was regularly hiking or camping with a number of friends, which helped us deal with the cold, but the weather also meant our socializing had to be limited so we could retire to our sleeping bags.

Although it was a climb, I particularly enjoyed working my way up Roane Mountain through evergreen forest and around/over/through interesting rock formations that the trail designers worked into the AT. I enjoyed reasonable views on a beautiful day and then made my way down to catch a ride to town. My shuttle driver was a friend of the B & B owner and pastor of the small Methodist Church in Roane Mountain. I decided to worship there the next day – Easter. A congregation member picked me up and I enjoyed celebrating this festival Sunday with a congregation of around 40 people. The rest of the day was quiet and relaxing as I caught up on planning and writing.

Before I left this area, I returned Monday to Carvers Gap to hike one of the best known and most acclaimed sections of the Appalachian Trail. Although the day began in sun, it quickly clouded up. Nonetheless I loved the hike which features the most beautiful grassy balds and interesting terrain. I vowed to return with Cheryl and hike this magnificent section again.

Day 34 – 3/29

START:
Erwin, TN (Cantarroso Farm – hostel) / Mile 343.8

END:
Beauty Spot (tent) / Mile 355.6

OBSERVATIONS:
I started hiking at the Nolichucky River before 8:00 am. The trail followed the river for a mile or so on a high, ridge overlooking the Nolichucky. The trail then followed some beautiful, mountain streams through thick rhododendrons in a gentle climb as we started up towards the Beauty Spot. Despite the map profile, the grade of the trail was excellent as it brought us up vertically with relative ease however the footpath itself was substantially more rocky and rooty then the
trails leading into Hot Springs.

I ran into Knee Deep, his nephew, and his nephew’s daughter Rachel and enjoyed morning break with them at Curly Maple shelter. Then began a long, steady climb up to the Beauty Spot (another famous bald on the AT). About halfway, at Indian Grove Gap, we were treated to trail magic by Brother T – brownies, zucchini bread, fruit and cold drinks. And I got to sit around in the sun in real chairs and socialize with Snowcone, Lifesaver, Donut, Knee Deep’s family and later Traveler showed up.

Energized by our trail magic break we headed up the final 3 plus miles to the Beauty Spot. The weather was still good so we had some great views. Most of us tented a short distance down the hill, returned to the Beauty Spot for sunset (but the clouds overtook the sunset) and then enjoyed a real campfire back at the campsite before turning in.  Another great day.
The day was among the nicest of the entire trail for hiking partly sunny mid-50s and very pleasant breezes. I only broke a sweat climbing the steep proportions of the trail.

Day 35 – 3/30

START:
Beauty Spot (tent) / Mile 355.6

END:
Clyde Smith shelter (tent) / Mile 370.0

OBSERVATIONS:
I packed and left camp first again on a cold misty grey morning. After an hour or so it began to really rain. I climbed Unaka Mountain (known for its “dense spruce mountain top forest”) in pea soup and cold rain. Although distracted by the weather and the challenging climb I did note that the ascent offered layers of vegetation as I moved through hardwood/rhodedrendrum forest, a  layer of evergreens, then low bushes/grassland (almost like a bald), and finally the promised dense spruce forest. It probably is quite pleasant and interesting in dry, mild weather, but I needed to keep moving.

The descent was difficult and unenjoyable – not only was it interminably long, but the trail often was nothing, but rocks and a flowing stream. I was happy to put Unaka Mountain behind me. Shortly thereafter I reached Cherry Gap shelter where I cooked oatmeal and a hot beverage. I was joined by Snowcone, Lifesaver, Traveler, Pit Bull and Play by Play. After 15-20 minutes it was too cold to linger, so off I went.

The rest of the day was a series of short climbs and short descents – somewhat pointless. There was nothing notable to see, but considering how cold and rainy it was no one was picking their head up much to look around. The sun seemed to want to come out, but then we’d get a shower of sleet. The only thing that truly brightened up the day was trail magic (quesadillas, cupcakes, fruit and a variety of cold drinks (including a sip of apple cinnamon moonshine) provided by
Chef, Tamborine and MoFo.

I was very glad to end a generally unpleasant day by setting up my tent (many excellent sites) at Clyde Smith shelter. Just to remind us of the day’s struggles, the water source was a long way away down a steep hill. It remained bitter. We (Traveler, Snowcone, Lifesaver, etc. – Pit Boss and Play by Play had gone to Greasey Creek) cooked and ate quickly. I met Vagabon Jack (and Kirb, who is hiking with Jack) and sent MB a photo of us. The cold drove me into my tent before
7:00 p.m.

Day 36 – 3/31

START:
Clyde Smith shelter (tent) / Mile 370.0

END:
Carvers Gap (Roane Mountain B&B / Mile 381.9

OBSERVATIONS:
I was up, packed and out by 7:45 on a beautiful morning with the sun rising to my right and a  near full moon setting to my left. The night had been below freezing with some light rain so I packed up a wet rain fly another morning. It was too cold to try to cook and socialize, so I decided to get going from the busy shelter site (6 tents and a dozen in the shelter, including Eddie & Rumi, Traveler, Snowcone & Lifesaver, Vagabon Jack, and Kirb.

The day looked like a challenging one with a 6-mile climb up to the old Cloudland Hotel site. I tried to prepare and planned a three part day: warm up by knocking off the first 4 miles that precede the vertical climb (and have breakfast there – Hughes Gap), tackle half the climb (and take lunch break at Ash Gap) and then finish the big climb (and from there it was a couple of miles downhill to Carvers Gap) — and fortunately that’s just what I did.

Traveler, Play by Play, Pit Boss, Kirb and Vagabon Jack all visited at my breakfast stop., where the weather had warmed and the sun was out. I enjoyed the lunch break (and the climb up to the summit) with two guys from NJ out for a week. The mountain top was a small grassy field and former site of a late 19th century hotel. The final decent of 2 – 3 miles was mostly on an old road that serviced the summit. I did not enjoy the overly rocky way because the rocks would constantly twist your feet in angles and directions you weren’t planning. I finally got relief as I reach Carvers Gap.  My B & B picked me up and brought me to Roane Mountain.

Day 37 – 4/1

START:
Carvers Gap (Roane Mountain B&B / Mile 381.9

END:
Carvers Gap (Roane Mountain B&B / Mile 381.9

OBSERVATIONS:
Zero day in Roane Mountain for Easter.

Day 38 – 4/2

START:

Carvers Gap (Roane Mtn B&B) / Mile 381.9

END:
US 19E (Roane Mtn B&B) / Mile 394.8

OBSERVATIONS:
I left Carvers Gap around 8:30. The morning was a mixture of sun/clouds. I had an Easy hike over Jane Bald where the views were still good as the sun remained. The trail then headed off the mountain down to Stan Murray shelter where I stopped for short break.

From there I hiked to Overmountain shelter (named for the local colonial militia that hiked over the mountain to intercept British troops planning to march to aid Cornwallis). The hike after Overmountain may be the most beautiful of the trip thus far. Although I did not have good weather (it was windy and grey with showers), the open grassy balds and saddles of Little
Hump and Big Hump offered tremendous views and interesting hiking terrain.

After Big Hump the descent was initially rocky and steep. It then moderated as I worked my way down to TN 19E.

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Last modified: April 26, 2018

2 Responses to :
WEEK #6 Erwin, Roane Highlands, and Easter

  1. Jamie says:

    I enjoy reading the names of those you meet on the AT. The nicknames remind me of growing up in the caddie yard as many caddies had similar nicknames.

    Enjoy the journey,

    Jamie

    1. rtkchallenge_w2dqin says:

      I appreciate the encouragement.

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