Friday, August 2, 2013
Start: Brookshire Creek | Finish: Coker Creek | Miles: 24.6 | Total: 166.5
8/3/13 actual – So I’m a day behind in journaling, trying to catch up. I was too beat yesterday.
Woke up Friday morning to that Jazz bird (see below). I need to look up what it is – whenever I am woken up by birdsong at sunrise in the woods, it’s this bird.
I had been kicking around the idea of a 25 mile day to be closer to Reliance and possibly cut a day to Thunder Rock. Based on camping at sites designated as camp sites per the guide, there was no real way to cut a day out of a 4 day stretch by distributing the extra miles evenly across 3. Doing the math I realized a 25 mile day would exhaust all available daylight or at least stretch it to the limit. So I decided to stick to my original plan, a series of reasonable 13-and-change days to Thunder Rock by Monday. Smelling the roses and all that.
Started walking at ~8:00. Just short of Sled Runner Gap, the horse tracks I had been following petered out, but I never did see a camp site or catch up to them. It’s possible that the litter trail was a few days older than I thought. Do horses leave less of an imprint if they are walked? That could be how they “disappeared”, and then they could have gone left at Sled Runner where I went right.
Sled Runner Gap was the beginning of a long ridge run. The first 2 miles were crazy overgrown again – my knees are all slashed up – but suddenly the trail entered a new maintenance district or state line, and the trail was bushhogged or weed-wacked 4′ wide all the way to Moss Gap. The blazes here were new and white. Zigging down to Sandy Gap I started hearing heavy machinery. It sounded like bulldozers and chainsaws. It kept getting closer, but never quite came in to view.. I even saw a new dirt road with fresh bulldozer tracks parallel to the trail just below me. When I got to Sandy Gap, they had extended the FSR beyond tha gap – on the map it dead ended at the gap.
Sandy Gap – The half way point of the entire hike!!
At Sandy Gap I did some work on my feet to address a new pinkie toe blister – lance,, abnd-aid, duct-tape, and relaced my shoes to loosen up the toe box. My feet are spreading and it’s starting to get crowded in there, even though I moved up to a size Wide before this trip. By then it was almost lunch time, so I did that too. Longer break than I anticipated, only 2 1/2 legs in to the day. Was also starting to get low on water.
Contued along the ridge line, with some occasional vistas, over Cantrell Top (still no water) to Tate Gap. Finally found water .2 miles east of Tate Gap, I only gave myself the walking ration of 1 liter, since I was close enough to Peel Gap – the destination for the day, which was listed as having water. When I got to Peel Gap, it was on an overgrown ridge/saddle, with no obvious water or camp sites. Rather, plenty of flat spots for camping, but all overgrown to knee height or higher. I figured this was as good as stealth camping, and I could always do that further up the trail, and nearer to an obvious water source. So I kept walking to look for water first, then a camp site.
I made it all the way to Unicoi Gap and still did not find water. The described water source at Unicoi Gap turned out to be a thin trickle along the side of a well-used gravelroad. I couldnt tell if it was a drainage ditch or a dry “creek” – the deepest spot was still only 1/4″ deep. I passed. In hindsight maybe should have tried to salvage some water from this, somehow.
The next water source and camping option listed was 8 1/2 miles away. It was 4:40 PM. At 2 mph it would be sunset if I made it. And a 25+ mile day after all. I decided to go for it, with the option to stealth camp if necessary. I put my head down, and power hiked 8+ miles into the setting sun. This section of trail could not have been more perfect for a speed hike – mostly flat, groomed, no overgrowth. The first 4-5 miles section was a dirt bike trail. I never did see any bikes, but I could smell exhaust two-stroke fumes. Very pretty woods.
I made it to Coker Creek camp site at 8:06. The site is at the dead end of a FS road, on a decent sized river or creek. Some locals were prospecting in the river, some others setting up a camp with a small teardrop trailer. The prospecters, a father and adult son, shared their “secret” natural spring with me, on top of which they had pitched their camp. Several more locals showed up during the night. but it was pretty quiet.
My feet were so sore I had trouble falling asleep.
This Wood Thrush is the closest thing I can find to the song of the Jazz Bird I mentioned. It is still not quite right. The one I always hear seems to be more melodic, slower, more deliberate notes, with 4 phrases that repeat, and without the trill at the end of each phrase. I call it Jazz Bird because each bird or song is a slight variation on a similar melody. It is possible I am hearing two birds singing to or over each other. It’s also possible that the high pitched trill on the video is lost in the ambient noise or distance of the woods, in the real-life scenario.