June 12, 2015
“You are wrong if you think Joy emanates only or principally from human relationships. God has placed it all around us. It is everything and anything we might experience. We just have to have the courage to turn against out habitual lifestyle and engage in unconventional living.”
There is a hokey phrase on the trail that I try to adhere to: “It’s not about the miles, it’s about the smiles.” Nothing rang truer today. This was the best hike and best camping I have experienced.
The hostel took us to Sam’s Gap around 8:00 am. No rain was in the area. Going north from the trail head, the trail starts uphill immediately, emerging into the green canopy of foliage. I knew I wanted to stay at Bald Mountain Shelter, so I didn’t rush the hiking, stopping frequently for water and snacks. I asked the hostel driver to stop at the local Exxon en route to the Sam’s; having gone through all my snacks the three days before.
The trail is mostly uphill for 6.2 miles, with some undulation, passing through forests, small fields, enclosed thickets and small creeks. At the top, I was treated to the most glorious of views. Big Bald is magnificent. To the north, Big Stamp presents as a huge pasture in the sky. Big Bald was the home of a hermit named Old Hog Greer in the 19th century. He may have been the smartest man of his time to make his home in such a wonderful location. There is a serene joy in the fields and flowers. Peace washes over you.
I leapfrogged with Mike and Larry all morning; they ate lunch at Big Bald, while I went down to Big Stamp to sit in the flowered pasture and eat.
At home, we have a small stool that has the words: “Right Here Is Good” spray-painted on its top. I thought about that phrase in reference to where I was sitting. An hour could have passed, five minutes could have passed, and I could not tell you which. It was so pleasant. Right there, in that moment was good.
For those out for a weekend, I highly recommend Bald Mountain Shelter. It sleeps 10 and has a great water supply and nice privy. When I got into camp I saw an ancient Kelty Tioga and an older gentleman sitting down. “Hey! You’ve got an external too!” I said. His name was Posey Picker. He was a retired botany professor from the University of Missouri. He had hiked the Appalachian Trail four times! He was one the most interesting people I have met.
Soon the shelter began to fill. Mike and Larry: retired men with doctorates; Stick: a former jazz musician; Chief High Brow: a great, great guy from Florida. As I sat with these guys I learned a lot. In each one I saw a different path in life. These men were all here, in this place, but their travels were very different. Some had chosen academia, some had families, grandchildren, some chased passions, some were laid-back, and some organized, some about the miles, some there for smiles.
It was moving to hear each man talk; hear their passions and life stories. No blaring television, beeping cell phones or technology interfered.
Total mileage is 7.7 miles.