June 9, 2015
“The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”
There is no denying the magic of the Appalachian Trail; the single white blaze, the characters it draws, the ever-extending green canopy. It is at both times an adventure and a solace. To simply say that I love the AT would not properly capture the kinship that I feel for this solitary path in the woods.
Starting from Hot Springs, the trail initially heads south and then swings north through a series of switchbacks. The reward after this 600 foot climb is the top of Lover’s Leap and beautiful views of Hot Springs and the French Broad River. Lover’s Leap comes from the Cherokee legend of Mist-on-the-Mountain, a maiden, who threw herself off the rocks after her lover was killed.
The trail then descends to Pump Gap. After another mile and a half, I came to a large pond. I stopped at the bench in front. As I was eating my trail mix, a crashing sound echoed across the woods. I looked around, expecting to see a bear, but nothing appeared. It was definitely something large. I packed up my stuff and headed out. Just past the pond, I went through Mill Ridge. This is a wonderful open pasture area. The trail is a bit tricky, so be on the lookout for the white blazes.
I came to Tanyard Gap and passed over NC 70 (which leads to Hot Springs). After some incline, there is a side trail to Rich Mountain and a fire tower with wondrous views. I passed through Hurricane Gap and its heavy, dense foliage and stinging nettles.
Two miles after Rich Mountain is Spring Mountain Shelter. I met G.T., a recent graduate of Georgia Tech in Computer Science. We were having a most pleasant conversation when in stormed a tour-de-force personality, Cub. At first I heard what was almost a weak yodel coming up the trail. Their appeared a lanky, pale white, tussle headed character in a green shirt and a kilt. He immediately headed to our fire stuck out his hand and said, “Nice to meet you, Sir!” He then regaled us with story after story. “I’ve decided I am going to hike to Canakan”. I think he meant Katahdin. “I did 24 miles today; I didn’t even stop in Hot Springs.” “Do you mind if I use your phone? I need to make two, four minute phone calls.” The whirlwind of conversation was dizzying. He went to the spring for water. I asked G.T. “is that guy alright in the head?” He said that he was a little off.
I watched the descending sun through the leaves and branches and retreated to my tent in the campsite above Spring Mountain Shelter. It was a good first day.
Total mileage is 11 miles.