It’s a terrible name but a spectacular spot in the Smokies about 4 miles from Newfound Gap that looks down into the valleys below from an outcropping of rock just off the AT. My hiking buddies that I’ve been with for the past few days and I decided to get up early and head out there for the sunrise. We got to the spot just as the fog was parting and the wind was driving the clouds down into the valley.
We spent about an hour peering into the void and waiting for the clouds to part and the sun to peek out above the ridge line across the way. It was perfectly quiet except for the sound of the wind and we all agreed that this was definitely the highlight of the hike so far.
It was a perfect start to our long 20 mile day to push to get into Crosby Knob Shelter. We hiked strong all day and took a nice break for lunch about half way. Today really showed off the amazing diversity of the Smokies. Every few miles the trail was transformed from pine forests to rhododendron to high balds along skinny ridge lines.
We ran into 2 slackpackers (hiking without your pack and having someone drive it to your next destination) that were trying to push 38 miles that day and it was showing with 16 miles left they were pretty wiped out. They said they were starting to get concerned about timing since they had taken 6 zeros already. 6 zeros! It’s really funny to hear all of the different ways that people are attacking this trail. I’m more of the steady keep moving guy with a zero here and there but these hikers were in another wavelength for sure. Hike your own hike!
We got into the shelter around 4:30 and met some really friendly thru-hikers that we shared dinner with. I made a sweet trail burrito (actually 3) and went to bed full and happy. We laid around in the shelters telling funny stories and then slept hard through a set of intense thunderstorms. It was still raining hard for the morning hike out and the trail looked more like a rocky river.
I made it to the northern terminus of the Smokies and Bryan and Taco picked me up and we headed into Asheville for a fancy zero in a nice hotel downtown. Things are very creepy in town with the virus but we were able to get some food and do laundry. My heart really goes out to all of the workers that have lost their jobs over the last week and hoping that things turn soon. Let’s be extra generous with tips and smiles for the next few weeks. This is stressful as hell.
Going to lay in bed for the best part of tomorrow and soak up my time with Bryan. Back on the trail on Thursday and plan to be in Hot Springs by Friday.