A Big Hump

2 JUL 14
Roan Mountain trip: Day 4
Bradley Gap-US 19E/Roan Mountain, TN
Miles today: 6.3

An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.
-Henry David Thoreau

Last night about 0100 a fly was stuck between the tent and my rain fly. That bastard buzzed so much it woke me up. I spent the next 10 minutes torturing him by flicking him through the no see um netting every time he landed. If I have to deal with him he’s gonna have to deal with me. I think he eventually died from blunt force trauma due to getting thumped by my finger. There was a strange flashing light outside my tent. Didn’t seem to be a firefly, because it would faintly blink or flash 4 or 5 times, then move around to another side of the tent. See, this is the shit I don’t like. Scary forest mystery creature crap. If someone is being funny, ha ha I have a joke for you if you keep it up, but I didn’t HEAR anything. My eyes must be fooling me. Just bury your head back in your stanky sleeping bag and go back to sleep.

Nothing got in my food or trash bag hanging from the tree last night. Now it was time to tackle Hump Mountain (mile 386.9; elev 5587). Again, the trail was very narrow which made for another “sobriety test” walk. This part of the trail is often photographed as well- it has a very distinct, treeless area cutting a wide swath up the mountainside. It was steep enough, and soon my left big toe started disagreeing with the inner edge of my insole. The guide said Hump has a few false summits as well, so when I had reached the summit it was a minute before I actually realized it. Saw a snake for the first time; he was a baby maybe 5 inches long and brown. He slithered in the grass before I got my camera out. Well, I did make good time coming up- took me 56 minutes. Cool.

Looking back, I don’t remember which climb was tougher, summiting Roan Mountain or summiting Hump Mountain. I went up Roan in the afternoon, so my legs weren’t fresh, but I did Hump on the last day of the trip, which is a negative too. The trail up Roan was also obviously reouted to create numerous switchbacks- several times I crossed over what was the old path going straight up. Rain was what made my ascent up Roan miserable, but in hindsight I think Hump was tougher because the trail took a more direct path to the summit.

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Started the absolute longest downhill I have ever walked. The other side of Hump Mountain was a bunch of boulders with a few springs running across it. Down down down, boulders boulders boulders, roots roots roots. Who put these trees in the middle of the trail? The scenery was pleasing however; the trail wasn’t overgrown and there was an abundance of natuural springs and runoffs along the way, giving me a chance to top off one last time.

I kept an eye on my watch; wanting to make it down to the hghway (US 19E) in my 4 hour deadline. 10:20. Right before Doll Flats (mile 389.3; elev 4600) I hit a stretch where I broke out in a jog. What? Yes, I was actually jogging down the trail. Self-imposed deadlines are awesome, aren’t they? The trail at Doll Flats apparently runs through someone’s private property, as a guy in a big John Deere tractor was plowing the field.

Once I passed the camping areas, just after the “Leaving NC” sign, the trail stair stepped down the mountain. I was traveling downhill from Hump Mountain for over 2 hours. I was moving at a pretty good clip, but not fast- the rocks & roots made sure of that. I’d rolled my ankle two more times today and was getting very pissed off at the terrain but kept on trucking. I could barely make out sounds of traffic which had to be the highway, but when the trail rounded a curve, it was still a good distance above me. I hit a landmark that was .3 miles from a stream, which was .3 miles from the road, which was .3 miles from my truck. Come on, you can make it by noon. 11:40. I hit the stream and the trail and terrain flattened out. Yeah buddy I’m moving now. Broke out in a jog. 20 minutes to go. Huff and puff. Keep going. Don’t stop for pictures- that wastes time. Go. Go. Go.

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Now I could hear traffic on the elevated roadway just ahead. I came upon another stream- wait, I hope this isn’t the one I thought was still 1/3 mile away. Turned out to be another one that I must have missed in the guidebook. I was paralleling the road now and the trail came up to meet it. 3 tenths of a mile to go and I have 12 minutes to spare. Jogged down the road, crossed the highway at a bad spot where I almost got hit by a car coming around a blind turn, and made it to my truck at 11:58. Sweet.

Caught my breath, went up to the B&B to get my keys, and told the guy I was going to sit on the porch and catch my breath. “No problem” he said. A furry white dog came up to me since apparently I occupied his “spot” and he was more than happy to have my attention for a few minutes. His buddies all came around the porch not wanting to be left out of the affection. What a sweet dog. Ambled down to the truck, shook out my gear, and headed back to Charlotte.

I did it. 30 miles in pretty much 3 full days of walking. My feet hurt, my left knee is swollen, and my right ankle is betraying me but I made it.

Now to plan the next trip adventure.

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