Posted by: pjbarr | March 29, 2010

Coming Home Again

Start: Dicks Creek Gap
Finish: Muskrat Creek Shelter
Distance: 11.8 mi.
Trip Distance: 79.3 mi.
Side Trips: Courthouse Bald, Big Laurel
Side Trip Miles: 2.4 mi.
State: North Carolina
Highlights: Blueberry Patch Breakfast, Coming Home to NC

“There is nothing half so pleasant as coming home again”-Margaret Elizabeth Sangster, American Poet and Author

It was difficult to leave a place as special as the Blueberry Patch this morning. I went to bed listening to my Mp3 player with all my favorite songs that make me think of the Trail. It was another one of those moments where I was reflecting how great it is to be out here and how I am already accumulating so many memorable experiences.

Gary, and his incredibly sweet and kind wife Lennie, made a fantastic breakfast of eggs, pancakes with blueberry syrup, cheese biscuits and gravy, orange juice, sausage, and coffee. It was amazing! So many (all of them) stayed at the crappy hotel in Hiawassee instead and they all missed out. During breakfast, Gary and Lennie took a personal interest in each one of us. Their kindness is unparalleled. I promised them I would bring Allison back to stay and to meet them in the future.

I really enjoyed meeting and getting to know the other hikers there as well. Bryant and Lola (Laura) stayed another night but I really hope to see them again in the future on the trail. So Far (Mike) is here with me at the shelter tonight and we are becoming good friends. Muddy hikes slower so I may not see him again but I hope I do.

I was really strong today on the trail, just like I was out of Neels Gap. I guess a big breakfast, good friends, and rest will rejuvenate me nicely. I made blazing time, passing thru Plum Orchard Gap after a steep climb up Buzzard Knob in only 90 minutes. I needed no stops and the overdue utilization of my hydration bladder finally prevented my reoccurring dehydration problem. I also put snacks in my hip belt pocket and ate on the go. The weather was cloudy and eventually became foggy, but there were no great viewpoints today anyway. The goal was to get to North Carolina.

I was bursting with anticipation as I reached the border. The GPS showed I crossed into my home state about 200 yards before the famous wooden NC/GA sign on the tree. I got a good photo of myself to commemorate the completion of my first state. I guess this is getting serious.

I reached Bly Gap immediately afterwards. To my dismay, a chain smoking couple was practically desecrating the famous gnarled tree in the gap. They had clothes hanging from it, their gear spread all over its trunk, and were sitting on it. It looked like a redneck yard sale. I waited years to see and photograph this famous iconic tree and my opportunity was foiled. I’m calling serious trail foul. All is not lost, however. Because I am behind schedule to meet Allison this coming weekend, I omitted the lengthy and supposedly difficult bushwhack to Rich Knob and Hightower Bald. So I will be back for them, as I will be back for the Bly Gap tree.

Immediately after Bly Gap, the trail climbs astonishingly steep up the ridgeline. North Carolina does not mess around. What a serious welcome to a new state! I hadn’t needed to stop to rest or catch my breath prior on today’s hike, but NC had me halted and sucking wind – frequently. In a way, I was proud – North Carolina’s mountains are bigger and more rugged – so let everyone know right away to respect my state.

The first climb in NC was straight up Sharp Top and immediately followed by Courthouse Bald. I made a short and easy bushwhack up the latter and did not need to remove my pack.

I was the first to reach the shelter. For all the people I have spoken of that I like out here there are equal amounts that I cannot tolerate. This is an unfortunate side effect of my crowded later start date. I just prefer not to mention them. There are handfuls of people out here trying to be “cute”, or even more who are complete “experts”. I don’t know why they have to come out here. If you want to get noticed and have people giggle at you, you will find more people in towns to do so. If you are so arrogant that if anyone else has gear or a strategy different from you, you feel absolutely compelled to force your opinions on others, shut the fuck up. Enough about this topic. I’ll do my best to continue to ignore the unfortunate plentitude of imbeciles out here and focus on those who I do like.

I’m at the shelter tonight with So Far, a nice German couple called the Wolf Pack, Trooper, and a late but welcome arrival, Eric, now known as Chef. The Bly Gap flea market folks are tenting out.

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