Day 36 – Sunday, April 20 (Easter)
One of the best things about waking in a shelter is the fact that everyone gets up when the first one does. We all woke today at 7:30 and packed together. Joe Hawk left first, followed by the trio of Ace, Max, and Frankie, then the pair of 19 and Bubba. Tandem and I lingered, enjoyed our breakfast together alone, and left at 8:30.
As usual, right out of the shelter was a climb. In fact, we climbed for most of the day, with a variety of ups and downs. I watched the guide book too much today. We crossed several roads of different types, and making great time, covering nine miles in 3.5 hours.
We stopped for water at mile 408.3, shortly after passing Joe Hawk on a memorial metal bench with a view. We stopped for lunch at noon in the Moreland Gap shelter at mile 410.5. We had caught up with everyone from the shelter the night before at some point in the nine miles. We took an hour to enjoy our lunches and the sun, and everyone else had left or passed by before we started hiking again.
On the way down the hill to Hampton, TN, I took my third big fall over a root, which cut up my left leg pretty badly. After applying first aid, we headed on down to Dennis Cove Rd/USFS 50. We had a decision to make about the rest of our day. Our original plan was to stock up on food at the Black Bear Hostel then hike on to a shelter or campsite a few miles in. Due to my injuries, though, we opted to take a nero at the Black Bear hostel.
I was able to shower and clean my cuts. We also shopped for trail food and food to microwave for dinner. I had two steak and cheeses and a pizza bread. We watched the videos Road Trip, Road Trip: Europe, and Vertical Limit with the other hikers, including 19 and Bubba. Before the store closed, I got an ice cream sandwich and a freebee mini Ben & Jerry’s ice cream that another hiker had left in the freezer.
After evening activities, I called home to wish Karen a happy Easter. Tandem talked to her also, while I went to the bunkhouse and started this blog. Happy Easter to everyone that I missed seeing today. We hope to do about 20 miles tomorrow.
We woke early and planned to leave at 8:30. I took a second shower to clean my leg wounds, which are doing well and drying up. After changing into clean clothes, I grabbed some breakfast foods and joined the others in the hiker lounge where they were watching the Fast and the Furious DVD.
At 8:20 we loaded the packs in the hostel van and the grandfather drove Tandem, Divinci, and me to the trail half a mile away to start hiking toward Laurel Falls. At the start of the trail section there was a sign for southbound hikers telling then that Springer is 404 miles away. That sign is actually outdated, since we were 416.5 miles from Springer at that point.
I had researched a couple of Geocaches and their hints so that we could search for them early on the trail. Tandem found the first one, a micro, under a creek bridge. I signed the log and returned it to its hiding spot. Before getting to the falls, I found the other cache in a rock crevasse. Tandem took a plastic bracket to wear on the trail.
The Laurel Falls were beautiful, and it was nice being there without a lot of people around. There were a couple of artists drawing the falls and a thru hiker in a hammock along the river right after the falls. We took pictures and headed down the trail. We had an 1800 climb in 2.5 miles and then back down the other side.
We reached the bottom at Watauga Lake at 13:00 and decided to stop for lunch. While eating, a trail angel couple drove up and pulled out a large cooler of sodas and four types of sugary treats, including honey buns, a hiker favorite. I had Mountain Dew Red Zone and root beer along with all four treats. We talked with them as other hikers showed up.
We said our thanks and completed sending updates, since we finally had AT&T signal. We enjoyed the two hour break and were the last hikers to leave. The trail angels offered us departing treats, so we took four more honey buns for the trail breakfasts.
The next nine miles were around the lake and 1600 feet above it to the Vandeventer shelter. A couple of miles before the shelter we filled up with water, since it is difficult to get to from the shelter and there is none to be had for more than four miles once we leave in the morning. We arrived at the shelter around 19:15, having hiked 17.3 miles. We chose to stay in the shelter due to rain coming early tomorrow. We had red beans and rice on tortilla shells again for dinner, a new favorite.
After a sparsely populated fire, we settled in at 21:30. Our plan is to reach Damascus in two days, going 22.7 rainy miles tomorrow and about nine downhill on Wednesday morning.