The Springs To The Gap

16 AUG 14
TN/NC Section 15 (Hot Springs Area)
Hot Springs-Tanyard Gap
Miles today: 5.5

Never measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top. Dag Hammarskhjold

My alarm went off at 0630. I knew I was going to take forever getting everything organized and ready for my hike, so I didn’t lolligag around in bed. The AC last night kept oscillating between ice cold air and a moist breeze. Oh well, I appreciate the fact that I had it at all.

Once I reorganized everything around in my truck, again, I set off for the public parking lot, and was stepping off across the French Broad River. At the end of the bridge, the trail switches back beneath it, so you have to hop over the guard rail. There were several double blazes indicating this, but having read it in the guidebook was a help too.

The French Broad River

The trail went past a field and parking area and past a few houses. I noticed one of them had a rather large Confederate flag flying. That’s the 4th or 5th one I’ve seen so far; they seem to be a lot more prevalent here than I’m used to. Oh well. Just one more thing to be aware of. The trail paralleled the river, and I stumbled upon several campsites, some occupied. Across the river I could hear country music playing at another, larger campsite. It irked me to hear it all the way over here, when the morning is supposed to serene and calm. That, passing the Confederate flags, and walking along the river bank with random fire rings and tents around gave me a weird feeling- not really uneasy, more like unsettled. I didn’t care much for it and was happy to start the incline up Lover’s Leap.

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A Long Walk

16 AUG 14
TN/NC Section 15 (Hot Springs Area)
Walnut Mountain Shelter-Hot Springs
Miles today: 14

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31

My alarm rang at 0615. It was a rather peaceful number, entitled “Dawn chorus alarm”. Figured it fit the occasion, and wasn’t harsh enough to jar me awake in a panic. Maybe it was a little too peaceful; I laid back down and closed my eyes for a few more minutes.

Let’s do this.

Last night got just a little chilly, not enough to keep me awake but enough to make me glad I spent the money on the liner for my sleeping bag. After I packed up and hit the privy, I set out for my destination- Hot Springs. Right around 13 miles. Yes- I’m going to do it. There was a liter and a half of water in my Platypus and the springs were ample according to the guide, so water wasn’t a concern.

The trail descended down Kale Gap (mi 261.5, elev 3714′), and it was full of undergrowth, some as high as my head at times. There seems to be a few particular plants that grow along the Southern Appalachians that get out of control here. It was the same type of brush encountered going up Roan at Beartown Mtn. At Catpen Gap (mi 262.2, elev 4135′) there was a meadow off trail that apparently had a good view of Max Patch, but I didn’t venture out as I was unaware until later on in the day when I read the guidebook. My main priority was to get a GPS signal, which I finally did get at the edge of the clearing.

The ascent up Bluff Mtn (mi 263.2, elev 4686′) wasn’t too bad since my legs were fresh, and there wasn’t a heavy load of water occupying my pack. A rather large and flat campsite was near the summit, with space for at least six or seven tents and with a big fire ring it seemed like a great place to camp out. Breakfast at the summit was some dried fruit and a Kind bar. Kind bars are awesome! My favorites are the cranberry & almond and the vanilla blueberry. They tend to get sticky but are oh so good. There was a spring about 50m down from the summit that unfortunately had a lot of sediment in it- the only place to fit the mouth of my bottle in wasn’t in the best place, and I’d stirred the water up trying to get it situated. Oh well. Filter it through a bandana and drive on.


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