Day mileage: 14.8 mi
AT total mileage: 125.6 mi
Time: 7 hours
Our Everest Base Camp broke down rather quickly this morning. At some point during the night I was awoken by another snapping noise, only to discover that two more tent pole joints broke. I spent about half a second debating doing anything about it, and decided that continuing sleeping was the best course of action. It's Sunday, so no phone calls to the manufacturer can be made. The group we camped with last night offered another brace for me to use to keep the tent up. This kind of generosity is unbelievably appreciated. Turkey, her puppy, Bengus, and Fumbles were heading back to the highway (0.2 miles or so) and spending the day in Franklin, NC. Myself, Crusoe, Doc, and Keegan headed uphill to start our morning, and were quick to get mileage in before coming across a bald mountaintop that we were urged to summit for the view. We were not misled, and a quick game of frisbee (before some bad aim ended the discus in the middle of impassable brush), and phone calls to loved ones accompanied the gorgeous ridge line views.
We descended from Siler's Bald down to Wayah Gap before beginning an incredibly strenuous climb to the next summit. There are points on the trail, quite frequently, where we walk through what I call 'rhododendron tunnels' - 8' tall tunnels of the not-yet-blossomed covering the trail. It's quite beautiful to walk through, and I hope we get to see them in bloom before too much time goes by. We ate lunch alongside a fresh water spring before continuing up a bit to a paved road and public park. For those in the Boston area, it was a lot like The Fellsway where Wright's tower overlooks the city. We stopped with a dozen other hikers at a stone fire tower that looks over Franklin. With only a few miles left in our day, we pushed on. Crusoe (Kevin) and Keegan stopped at a shelter while Doc and I cruised along for a few miles. It's an amazing phenomenon that every afternoon we slip into an auto-pilot mode and simply breeze through mile after mile of trail. I had my iPod playing and was jamming along to some music. Underneath the heat of the sun today, with temperatures in the high 70s and a lovely breeze, I put some suntan lotion on at lunch and spent my afternoon shirtless. I've noticed tan lines appearing not only where my watch is, but also where my trekking pole straps cross over my hands. I can only imagine how funny this will look after months of exposure.
A very long climb was how we ended our day, which we somehow overlooked when checking the maps throughout the day. The phrase 'trail legs' is thrown around referring to when you've developed leg muscles capable of climbing these mountains without much issue or pain. While I sweat profusely today, I'd say that my cardio & leg situations have become very much tuned to trail specifications. These climbs are enjoyable and not painful, and I manage to keep my 2+ MPH pace during these long inclines.
The tent site tonight is packed. Shelter is absolutely full, and it seems many people are planning escape routes from the two days of thunderstorms we're slated to get tomorrow and Tuesday. Our mileage tomorrow should only be 12-13 or so, giving us time to secure a tent site for the four of us (Crusoe, Doc, & Keegan) before much competition arises. We cooked dinner with a large group of people, including a family of 5 who are thru-hiking as the kids are home schooled... certainly an interesting way of bringing up a family, I wonder what implications it will have on the social development of kids that don't have exposure to people their own age? Who knows, but I'll ask Doc tomorrow what he thinks. Crusoe made some chili over the fire which he shared and we all enjoyed. As we were eating dinner a 4th section of my tent poles snapped. Another nice hiker donated his bracing to keep my tent standing tonight. A few phone calls and bedtime as the winds on this ridge are whipping around. My fingers are crossed for an uneventful night of sleep, but I know the guy in the hammock next to me will be colder regardless of my condition.
We're 3 days out from the Smokies, so that's something worth looking forward to. Hopefully MSR/Cascade Designs will get me new tent poles before then... We've heard rumors of snow storms still happening on the peaks of that mountain chain. It'd help a lot if the tent could stay standing without the assistance of braces & duct tape. Anyway. Bed time for me. Hope you're all doing well & had a good weekend.