Day 2: Gregory Bald

Back home now. I was just too tired to trailblog Sunday night. Sunday we were up by 7, on the trail by 9. That’s how long it takes, with a 90/10% split (optimistically) on breakfast prep and camp duties. About 50 yards down the rail, we realized there was a creek crossing that would involve getting wet. We switched to Crocs, and waded across, which was a nice icy wake-me-up. As we were putting our shoes back on, I joked that I bet there was another one right around the corner. It wasn’t so funny when we rounded the next corner. This time we decided to just wade through it, we would have all day for our shoes and socks to dry before temperatures would drop to chilly again. I had selected Merino wool socks and mostly-mesh hiking shoes for just this reason, after the Jacks River trip last spring.

It was a long and hot (for April) hike to the top of Gregory Bald. The grassy & shrubby mountain meadow on top provided views into TN and NC that were well worth it. We even spotted some deer bedding down in a thicket very close by. The bridle path over this part of the mountaintop has been used by cattle herders, native Americans, and ungulates for centuries, and is thus rutted up to 6″ deep into the surrounding grass. The “only” 4 miles down to the camp site was anti-climactic… painfully steep in places, waterless, and seemed to go on for ever. The trail was not on the USGS map, so was very difficult to judge position and progress. Every bend wanted to be the last one, but never was. It was one of those days where you are kindof in a daze when you reach camp. Camped next to another postcard-perfect mountain stream. Between dinner and bed time, a short thunderstorm hammered us for a few minutes, including a flashbang-close lighting burst that left us blinking. That night it rained for a while in the wee hours, but we stayed dry.

The next morning was a short 2 mile hike back to the car, along some of the most scenic streams yet. Jason called them “stage sets” they seemed so picturesque. This section had single-log bridges at each crossing. We stopped by Fontana Dam to play tourist, on our drive back. Again saw waves of AT hikers – Fontana Dam is a benchmark in that it marks the gateway to the GSMNP on the AT. The clouds never cleared all day, and it kept getting colder. Checking the weather, I see it did in fact dip to 23 last night. So the shortened trip was well advised.

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