February 7, 2015
We started the day somewhat leisurely, with coffee, oatmeal, and snacks. This was good, as it would turn out to be a most trying hike. We started with a 1.3 mile ascent of Chestnut Mountain. There were great views of Looking Glass Rock, Cedar Rock and John Rock. We quickly descended to a gap and then had a small climb up Rich Mountain. From Gloucester Gap we began the misleading ascent of Pilot Mountain. Three false summits, straight up vertical hikes, killer rock switchbacks. The hike up Pilot with a full pack and lots of water (since there is absolutely none on the trail) is one of the harder hikes I have done. Yes, it’s only 5,084’, and Gloucester Gap is located at 2,784’, but you feel the mountain at every footstep.
For me this when the hike started to feel real, where I started to feel like Dave, Doug, and I were working together to tackle this mammoth trail.
We had a great lunch, spent time reading and talking with day-hikers in the sun. At 1:30 we descended to Deep Gap. Hidden to the side of the shelter is a tiny water source, where we refilled again for that day and the next. Originally we had wanted to make it to Ivestor Gap, but it looked to be impossible. We decided to try for Black Balsam by night fall. After Deep Gap, the trail rises quickly with a tough summit of Sassafras Knob. We descended to Farlow Gap and then climbed Shuck Ridge and found an incredible camping spot just short of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
As we ate dinner and made a fire, we started to talk about the trail the next day. Spirits were low. We had 13 or so miles to go. We then decided that we would stick together the next day and hike this thing together. It didn’t matter if we finished in the middle of the night, we would do it together.
I thought a lot about how we live our lives as I hiked the Art Loeb. Life moves too fast in modern America. We endure day-to-day frenetic paces that are enraptured with anxiety, ridden with non-importance. What really is important? Having a warm, dry shelter, having food, having water, having friends or family to depend on and support. These are important. Without wilderness, I forget this.
Total mileage is 8.3 miles.