Friday, July 26, 2013
Start: Burnt Spruce Campsite – CS 56 | Finish: Lower Forney Creek – CS 74 | Miles: 15.4 | Total: 61.1
Woke up anxious about facing the solitude. Began singing out loud to pace myself on the climbs. Started with The Police, then switched to Larry Norman – he’s the only one I can remember most of the words to. Challenged myself to sing through the entire In Another Land album – probably the most memorized single album of my childhood. I was amazed at how much of it I could reconstruct. Then it was on to attempt to reconstruct Pink Floyd’s The Wall – fresh in my head from having just watched the movie again for the first time in 20-odd years. That didn’t go so well – maybe 50/50.
Trail Karaoke: If you are going to do a long, lonely hike, I recommend memorizing some songs – any songs. Your favorite obscure album. TV themes. Anything. Actually, better be good songs that you like, or it will get old. Songs will get stuck in your head, and it will suck when you realize you don’t actually know 90% of the lyrics.
Today was actually pretty good trail. I departed the Forest of Despair (that’s what I dubbed it in honor of the Princess Bride, the creepy vibe, and that I was feeling quite melancholy last night…) campsite at 9:00, following the creek upstream. Immediately I came to a stream crossing that was impossible to navigate dry. Rather than mess up my fresh dry socks, I put on the smelly dry-ish socks that we washed at CS 50. Good thing too – there were 8 or 10 more creek crossings the next 2 miles. Then a mile-long climb over a ridge. At 10:15 I met another thru-hiker named Philip “Oreo”, going northbound. He said I was the first through hiker he met.
On the way back down the other side, I thought it was going to be Forest of Despair 2.0 – thick undergrowth, a muddy, boggy floor, and facefulls of gnats. However, it soon started to follow Noland Creek, a beautiful mountain stream again very similar to Jack’s River. As it went down, the trail got wider and flatter, and became an obvious rail bed. Most of the crossings at this point were on ancient moss covered single-log bridges. I found a “perfect spot” for lunch on the edge f the roaring creek, and set up the hammock.
After lunch, the trail turned in to a gravel jeep road, then a smooth gravel vehicle road all the way to Road to Nowhere. By the way, the BMT did go under the bridge and up that side trail that we saw (when dropping off the cache box). After loading up with resupply (I had to go back to ditch your food after carrying it a few hundred yards), I went through the tunnel and back on the trail. The last 3 miles were decent, but I was suffering from some serious blisters by now. The entire afternoon was basically a road walk in wet socks. With road walking you get that repetitive stress of every step being the same, and I don’t think I would have worked up the blisters in the same way walking on a rough trail in the same wet socks.
Arrived at camp at 5:45 pm, 15.7 miles for the day. There is a group of 3 college age dudes here. The dudes said that Fontana Lake is “flooded” on the trail ahead, so we’ll have to see what that means.
Tomorrow 13.3 flat.
Also, I was missing a chunk of the Smokies map. For some reason the one I scanned and laminated was missing the last 12 miles due to the unfortunate placement of a map legend – showing blatant AT bias! I was able to get a snapshot of the missing section from one of the Dudes. Good thing, too – the BMT on his map is different than the guide book. On Sunday I will get to see which way it is marked on the actual trail.
Today it dawned on me that I probably should have had you in real hiking boots for a trip like this. 2 of the last 4 hikes ended in rolled ankles wearing sneakers.