From Pass Mtn Hut to Hawksbill Gap; 14.3 miles
Very windy night last night - hard to sleep. Awoke at one time to find the back of my tent had blown down. Had to crawl out of the tent and pound the stake back into the hard ground. Still, was able to get an early morning start. On the way to Thorton Gap, a determined doe blocked my path. She would not be dissuaded until I clicked my poles together and then scampered off into the woods, the white tail waving in defeat. At the base of Mary's Rock, Mercy was apprehensive about the stiff climb awaiting us. I went ahead to tackle it and arrived about 45 minutes later to a cold and windy summit, so much so that it was difficult to enjoy the view. Mercy arrived another 45 minutes later. At the recently opened Byrds Nest shelter, Mercy made the decision to only go as far as Skyland while I would head for the intended destination - Rock Spring Hut. She decided the distance that day of 15 miles was too far for her. She would hitch a ride to Big Meadows from Skyland and stay at the campground there. So we parted company and I made tracks for a 15 mile day. The day was clear but cold and I made good time, enjoying the magnificent views along the way. But as the day progressed, I realized I'd be in for a cold night at Rock Spring, and with a 25 degree bag, I would likely not be warm enough. After talking with Skipper on the cell, I decided to have him pick me up at Hawksbill Gap, just short of my intended goal, and take me home for the night. Paul Bunyan was planning to return anyway the next morning to resupply Mercy, so he could drop me off. Skipper and I tried looking for Mercy to take her home as well but failed to find her. So I traveled home for an unexpected "hostel" stay and glad I did. Resupplied and took a shower.
A trail in autumnOct. 23
From Hawksbill Gap to Bearfence Mtn Hut; 12.1 miles
Good to be home sweet home, I must say, in a nice bed. Had a big breakfast, then PB drove me to my starting point at Hawksbill Gap. It was there I discovered I had left my hiking poles in Skipper's car the night before. What a sad discovery. So I made do with two sticks other hikers had left at the trailhead and used them to make my way along the trail. Finally caught up with Mercy on a flat section of trail south of Big Meadows where she talked of the very cold night endured at Big Meadows. She was not happy to hear I had been at home - though we had tried our best to find her. We made good time to Bearfence Hut where Skipper met us with warm chocolate chip cookies and my beloved hiking poles. Spent time together at the site until he had to leave. I moved my tent to another camping area as the place became inundated with hikers arriving, and I had a peaceful night alone in a spot overlooking the hut area.
From Bearfence Mtn Hut to Smith Roach Gap; 13.5 milesHiked out in an overcast, slightly misting day with a cold wind. Hard to hike while trying to stay warm. At South River picnic grounds, I ran into a nice couple who gave me a bottle of water since the water supply had been turned off. They also gave me the weather report - rain coming in that night. I gave Skipper a call to see if he would pick us up at Smith Roach Gap for a night at home instead of spending a wet cold night at Hightop shelter - our destination that evening. The shelter itself is only a mere fifteen or so miles from our home, so it made sense to be in a warm place for the night. The only problem was, I had left Mercy by South River and was uncertain where she was on the trail to give her the news. I hiked on in the hopes of running into her. Never saw her, even as I crossed over Swift Run Gap and Rt 211 to enter the southern section of the park.
A climb over Hightop mountain yielded an interesting view of the valley with rolling clouds.
Part Three in the next blog