Over the Hump (Mountain)
It’s shocking how much a door can make a difference in keeping out the cold. That’s not to say that it was full proof. Even with it closed when I spilled water on the floor it immediately froze. Yet when I went outside the air was immediately significantly colder. By 6:30 P.M. we were in our bags on the floor and would not get up until 07:30 the next morning. 13 hours in bed…. well no… 13 hours on floor.
Roan High Knob Shelter
It’s not exactly true that I never got up during the night. I awoke about midnight regretting that I had drunk so much hot cocoa. The thought that I had to get out of the bag appalled me. Yet the need matched my desire to eat any Twizzler that comes into view so successfully unzipped from my bag and boots pulled on I hightailed it outside. Upon my return I was attempting to negotiate the door without waking the other six in the shelter. That was no easy task. The door was heavy and by no means a perfect rectangle. It loudly scraped along the floor and then had to be adjusted to allow the hook to align. After much ado the hook was in place and the thought of my warm bag was all consuming! The thought of my safe Teddy Bear of my youth was within reach. I made a step and went crashing to the floor. What the heck???!!! My legs wouldn’t go with me. I struggled unable to make it to the warm bag. I would have turned on a light but there wasn’t one and my headlamp was in the sleeping bag. I hadn’t wanted to wake up anyone. It took a moment but I made use of my college degree, military time and work career to realize that my untied boot laces were under the door…… all of them. The width of those laces caused the door to be completely lodged. I was caught in an anomaly of dumbness. The theme song from ‘The Twilight Zone” came into my head. Do do do do; do do do do. “Man freezes to death when shoe laces wedge door closed. 33 years of rescue work wasted!” I yanked and pulled on the door until it finally opened. By then I was pretty sure that I had woken everyone all the way back to Walhalla but I made it back to my bag. The Teddy Bear of security was back firmly in place.
Backpacks on a Ceiling
From my vantage point on the floor I looked up. Our packs were all hung from the ceiling with care. If a bear wanted this stuff he would have to work for it. My mind wandered. The next night promised a warm home and real food with Oscar and Jackie Blackwell. Meet up with them was 16.4 miles away which included multiple mountains.
Frozen, Rocky, Uneven, Hurtful Trail
It was time to hike if only to allow my body a chance to warmup. The trail off of the mountain was difficult with the ice. My feet hurt with every step. I knew once I made it to the highway I would be dealing with the constant wind which is always blowing here. When I arrived it felt as though I was in a wind tunnel. I made my way to the public privy there…. it promised shelter from the wind so that I could power up my phone. It’s not everyday that you seek a toilet for shelter but that is where I found myself. I moved my pack inside and then attempted to make a call…. no signal inside the privy. Dang!!! I moved outside to call when I saw Ray running toward me. She obviously had a more appropriate need for the structure….. I relinquished the right-of-way to her.
The Roan Mountain Range of Peaks
I began the climb from the highway up the familiar trail to Round Bald. The wind was howling about me. Both because I had been here so many times before and because I was cold my camera was not used much in spite of the beauty about me. Jane Bald at 5,808 feet was next followed by the side trail up to the summit of Grassy Ridge Bald. I had been to these places before both with my children and friends. The beauty remained there unchanged. This time, however, it was a very small part of a whole. The trail would meander on for more than 1,800 miles. Countless more peaks and valleys would have to be hiked. Countless more days of wind, rain, heat and cold would need to be endured. The trail dropped to the sunless side of the mountain and it once again became colder. The promise of a warming trend we kept hearing about seemed to be fickle. We stopped for a moment at Stan Murray Shelter and came upon Miles. Another hiker appeared in shorts who appeared to be flying along. I wondered what his blood was made of.
The Conquest of Hump Mountain
I passed the trail taken by the Over Mountain Men during the Revolution when they were going to join forces with other patriot forces from the area of Virginia, North Carolina and what would become Tennessee. Their efforts would assist the patriots in defeating a British army of Tories at the Battle of King’s Mountain to the East. It fascinates me to stand on the spot. An Australian couple, Rachel and Braden, joined me for a moment and we talked about the history of the spot. They had not adopted trail names. All suggested seemed too Australian. I told them that was no problem…. they told me that I was the first one not concerned about not having names. It seemed to me that we had bigger fish to fry.
Leaving North Carolina….Again
The miles spread out before us. I came upon three deer as I came across Little Hump Mountain and it’s Bald. Two southbound hikers came by us looking exhausted and ill prepared. Equipment was found along the trail after them evidently dropped from their packs. It reminded me of Katz in a Walk in the Woods. Within a mile we came upon the long climb to the peak of Hump Mountain. The grassy open climb spread out before us forever. The place was filmed and used in the movie….. I began the long climb… it was an eternity. The summit achieved I didn’t know if I felt relief, victory, or just plain exhaustion. There was a four mile downhill hike ahead of me.
The Rocky Road to Injury
That hike would lead to eventual disaster for me. It became an endless downhill pounding of tall steps of rock. I felt my left knee failing. The four miles went on and on and on. There was no choice…. at the end of this day I would find Oscar Blackwell and an evening away from the trail. I was more than ready for it.
I could not have asked for a better ending to this day than meeting Oscar and Jackie Blackwell. Their son has hiked the AT. As a matter of fact he has done the triple crown. They wanted to pay back the kindnesses afforded their son while he was hiking. Huck, Ray and I were blessed to be the beneficiaries of that kindness. They openly welcomed us into their home and we spent the night relating stories of our adventure to this point in time. Laughter was the order of the evening and that was a medicine well worth taking. Tomorrow would be soon enough to hike on,