February 8, 2015
The wind howled during the night. This was the first time I had camped in my new tent, so I was somewhat apprehensive about its performance. It did a wonderful job of shedding the wind and not even budging from its spot. At one point I got up in the night and didn’t even know it was blowing until I opened the tent door and wind came inside. Gusts were high during the night and continued unabated as we broke camp early.
To try to finish the hike by nightfall, we started early and made breakfast once we reached the base of Black Balsam Knob.
Crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) was marked by the beginning of some of the most beautiful terrain in the area. After a brief, but tough climb up a ridge, we encountered a gorgeous copse of evergreen trees for ½ a mile. At a pretty spot and out of the wind we made breakfast. The topography that followed was unabashedly incredible, with balds, unbelievable views and meandering paths.
The first climb of the day was at Black Balsam Knob (6,214’) quickly followed by Tennent Mountain (6,040’). These are not really hard hikes, but our pace was slowed by the heavy amounts of thick ice and mud covering the trails.
We rested just outside of Ivestor Gap and hiked around Grassy Cove Top and into gorgeous Flower Gap. At Shining Rock Gap we had another brief rest and recharged before tackling the Shining Rock Ledge with Stairs Mountain and the ever so difficult and aptly named “Narrows”. We turned west and hiked downward from Deep Gap (second of the trail). We assumed that this part of the trail would be easy. Art Loeb had different ideas. The trail was muddy and icy again and we had a difficult time. As hilarity would have it we were tripping down the trail even as we could see the car. Don’t let anyone tell you differently, the Art Loeb is a difficult trail.
What made this trail so memorable were the people that I hiked it with. We supported each other all day whether it was encouragement, food and snacks, a joke or letting each other know where the bad spots were on the trail. So many are into the gear, seeing how fast you can finish the trails. For me, being in and seeing nature and having friends there are what’s important.
I wish everyday life was like trail life.
Total Mileage for the day is 13.2 miles. Total mileage for the weekend is 30.1 miles.