Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb. – Sir Winston Churchill
Today was book ended with highlights but the middle of it, and majority of hiking, was monotonous and frustrating. I initially had a 24 mile day in mind to reach Kincora Hostel for the evening. While other factors contributed to me stopping short of my goal, the primary reason was my late 10 am departure on account of eating breakfast at the Mountain Harbour B & B. Rumor had it that it was the best breakfast on the trail so far, and it more than lived up to that reputation. It was glorious, and I got to meet and talk with Mary who operates the B & B.
I enjoyed the trail as far as Isaac Cemetery, which skirted its border. The trail off and on followed old roads and would pass through several meadows. Even shortly after, a side trail lead to Jones Falls, which was much more impressive of a water fall then I anticipated and certainly worthy of a short side excursion.
Visiting Elk Falls also gave me the opportunity to visit North Carolina one last time, as I crossed the border slightly to reach the falls, a Tar Heel possession. I found a side trail that descended from the AT to the banks of the Elk River, which I found appealing and picturesque. I was astonished by the beauty I saw on the other side of the river. A Max Patch-esque rolling hills of meadows, with a few venerable old trees sprinkled here and there framing the scene. The setting was so serene. This site was as pleasing as my visit to the falls themselves. The grass really was greener on the other side, and it’s no coincidence that the other side was North Carolina.
The remainder of the day was a hike in and out of every possible cove, rivulet, and hollow imaginable. It was comparable to the dreaded Lake Shore Trail in the Smokies. Like that trail, today’s route had no major climbs but the culmination of three excessive, repeated ups and downs made the total elevation gain difficult to manage. The profile map makes it look flat and easy, just like the infamous Lake Shore Trail. But so far ascents do not register on profile charts because of their lack of stature. But multiply ascents and descents of 50 feet, the equivalent of 5 stories, about 50 times, and suddenly today’s hike was no easy walk.
I ate lunch at the new Mountaineer Shelter during this stretch, one of the few landmarks. This shelter was impressive – having three levels of sleeping platforms. It was constructed in just two days by the crew Bob Peoples the operator of the Kincora Hostel, known as “Handcore”. I would see other evidence of past projects completed by this industrious annual workhorse throughout my hike, though I cursed several of their excessive reroutes. I did however, enjoy both Mountaineer Falls and Handcore Falls, which they named and moved with wooden signs. I also would like to stay a night at the Mountaineer Shelter one day.
I finally emerged from this green tunnel section I deemed the “Tennessee Doldrums” at Moreland Gap where I am spending the night at the shelter. I did get a last vista of the Roan Massif from a view point while descending to the gap. It was similar to the only other one in the stretch where trees had been cut to artificially create a vista where a bench was positioned. Also a product of Bob Peoples, perhaps he realized how dreadfully unappealing this section was. But the latter view, I could see the grassy meadow ascending the hollow up to Yellow Mountain Gap – a historic route followed by the Overmountain Men, and Allison and I on a hike over a year ago.