June 11th, 2016
Early Saturday morning, Wayne, Pam, and I drove towards Hot Springs, NC with hopes of spending the weekend putting some miles in, hiking on the Appalachian Trail.
Martha had driven up Friday night in order to get an early morning start on her 14.5 mile hike from Lemon Gap back down into town. The three of us planned to begin in Hot Springs and hike in the opposite direction, towards her. Depending on where we intercepted each other, we would either turn around and hike out with Martha or we would hike on a little further before turning around.
Wayne, Pam, and I were on the trail by 10:30 am. The hike out of Hot Springs began with a steep climb, gaining about a thousand feet in the first 1.3 miles. It was pretty hot and muggy, but we made steady progress, only stopping once for a short water break.
It was on this initial climb that we came upon a large (but harmless) Black Rat Snake in the middle of the trail. This would be the first of three or four that we would see during the weekend. After taking a picture, Wayne walked right over top of it. I waited as the snake went up a tree before I took a picture and carried on.
The trail gained elevation more gradually for the next mile or so, then descended steeply to Gragg Gap. The Deer Park Mountain Shelter is only a tenth of a mile or so off the trail from here. The shelter has a privy, a picnic table, and sleeps five. There is also a nearby water source. Naturally, the trail began to climb again as we left the gap.
Over the course of the day, we encountered a number of other hikers of all ages, both young and old. Some of them were section hiking with three generations of their family, while others were hiking solo and attempting a thru-hike of the A.T.
When we finally intercepted Martha, it was around 1 pm and we had hiked about 5.3 miles. The three of us hadn’t eaten our lunches yet so we stopped and ate right there along the trail. Afterwards, Wayne decided to hike back with Martha while Pam and I decided to hike on to Garenflo Gap in order to finish that section and to get in a few more miles (13.5 miles total for the round trip).
After finishing our day of hiking, we all got cleaned up and walked around town. We spent some time in Bluff Mountain Outfitters. I love to go to outfitters to check out all of the cool gear, but I’m kind of like a kid in a candy store. I’m always tempted to make a purchase, even if I don’t particularly need anything. When we were all done there (fortunately my wallet was still intact), we walked a few blocks to the Smoky Mountain Diner for supper. I ordered a pulled pork sandwich with fries. The pork was tender and flavorful. The serving of fries was generous and it was all more than I could eat in one sitting.
Later in the evening, back at our motel, the four of us grabbed some chairs and positioned ourselves out front, near the street. It was quite entertaining watching all the different people. Many were going back and forth on the main road. Some were in their cars, some were riding bikes, and others were on foot. One fellow walked back and forth several times wearing a huge backpack. I don’t think that most of them had a particular destination in mind, I guess that’s just what you do on a Saturday night in this quaint little town.
Back in our rooms, I lay in bed and watched a part of a Hallmark movie (don’t judge me, lol) before eventually dosing off. Our first day was in the books and it had been a good one.