Roan (Rain) Mountain

30 JUN 14
Roan Mountain trip: Day 2
Clyde Smith Shelter-Roan High Knob Shelter
Miles today: 7.9

Storms have come!
Rains wash the earth away
Dark skies fall down
Into another day.
-Enya “Storms In Africa”

Woke up at 0555. The clouds finally ran out of water, at least for now. Everything I own is damp. Tried to dry my socks, but with the condensation from inside my tent that was an exercise in futility. The bottom of my sleeping bag somehow got wet as well. My shoes were just as wet as they were when I’d taken them off yesterday. My insoles were moist. Thank God I brought my Crocs- I couldn’t imagine having to keep these wet shoes on for a minute longer than I have to.

S L O W L Y started packing up and getting ready to go. Guess what’s worse than putting on wet shoes? Putting on wet socks, then putting on wet shoes. Hmmm, should I stay on the trail or should I go dry out for a day. Dry shoes and dry clothes sound good. I’m a wimp.

Trudged down the hill to fetch some water, made some coffee, and after gulping down my mandatory handful of morning pills,  halfheartedly donned my pack, bid farewell to my shelter mates and set off for Hughes Gap at 0800. It was a steep climb back up to the AT. Here goes nothing. On the way, since I was the first person on the trail for the day apparently, my face was assaulted every 50 feet by spider webs. There are few feelings in the world as gross as getting a faceful of web. At Little Rock Knob (mi 369, elev 4918′) I stopped for a breakfast of peanut butter crackers and was treated to a view of a valley. The walk up was through a good number of rocky rhododendron tunnels. Clouds overhead were trying to break, and I saw a sliver of blue sky (yes!), but the lower clouds were still scuttling by, quickly obscuring the view.

Valley from Little Rock Knob

Valley from Little Rock Knob

Checked my voicemail, and yes, I had left my keys in the car. Shannon said to not panic, they’ll hang on to them for me. Good call on telling me not to panic, because I was already tallying up how much it would cost to not only get a locksmith to get me in my truck, but the probable necessary overnight stay as well. My phone call to the B&B went unanswered after 9 rings. Not wanting to dawdle, I set out for my next waypoint. The walk down to Hughes Gap wasn’t bad, all things considered. Took a 15 minute break down by the road at 10:00 to readjust my pack. I was 6 miles between water points with an uphill climb to Ash Gap, but I could top off there before the looming ass-kicker up Roan Mountain. My legs were tiring, but not as bad as they were after my trip to McAfee Knob back in March.

On the way up from Hughes Gap, I noticed 4 dead mice strewn along the middle of the trail about 20 feet apart. That was strange. What made it stranger was the fact that they were all missing their…heads. What kind of animal has a blood lust for mouse heads? Zombie owls, that’s what. Fear the undead…20140701_091550

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29 JUN 14
Roan Mountain trip: Day 1
Iron Mountain Gap (TN 107/NC 226)-Clyde Smith Shelter
Miles today: 6

One day it started raining, and it didn’t quit for four months. We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin’ rain… and big ol’ fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways. And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath. Shoot, it even rained at night.
-Forrest Gump

I woke up late (of course), got situated and headed out of Charlotte late (of course), and instead of getting to Mountain Harbour Bed & Breakfast (and Hostel) for my shuttle scheduled between 1100-1200, I got up there at 1245. Ran into a healthy rainstorm around Hickory, but once I got to the B&B, it was relatively clear. Big puffy clouds were aloft, but it was dry. Walked up the steps to the B&B, stated my business, and was greeted by Shannon. Great name. I asked her if there was somewhere I could change into my rain pants. She said to go over to the hostel, and she would meet me in the parking lot.

Once inside, an older lady (former thru-hiker Vagabond) showed me to the bathroom. The hostel was an old converted barn, and looked exactly like the pictures on the internet- quaint, small, rustic, but clean. I really liked the open loft with bed upstairs. Got changed, mentioned casually to no one in particular that I may stay here in the future, and was on my way. During our drive to Iron Mountain Gap, Shannon mentioned that she had a hunch that I was in the military, just by the way I carried myself; pretty straightforward, no nonsense. I took that as a compliment. She showed me some of the mountains that I would be traversing, but I didn’t pay much attention- I’m not good at getting oriented from the ground in a car traversing windy mountain roads.

We finally arrived at the trailhead at Iron Mountain Gap (MI 362.1; elev 3723’) at around 1330. I was eager to get moving as I was already almost an hour behind schedule, and had to get to Clyde Smith shelter tonight. Pack was donned (raincover on just in case), said goodbye and thanks to my namesake, and headed across the street. Felt that special feeling once I saw that first white blaze- Hello, old friend; what do you have in store for me this time? An uphill climb? Of course! Thanks, Mr. Trail! 20140629_132957






The ascent north started out relatively tame, but only 10 minutes in I knew these damn rain pants were gonna have to come off. Then I hit the steep grade that I knew was inevitable. Soon the climb got to the point where I had to take a break every 40 or 50 steps. Remember, I have been doing jack and s***for 7 weeks since my last trip. Saw numerous red efts that I kept hearing about. Red efts are actually the Eastern (or Red) Newt. In their terrestrial phase (before they go to live in the water), they are called efts, and the forest was littered with them. Snapped a few photos, then to take my mind off the burning sensation in my legs, I started counting how many I saw. I stopped the count at 33.

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