This is the SECOND PART of the CARVERS GAP TRIP For Part One Click Here
I wake as I usually do in my hammock…. Slowly…. Being comfortable on the trail is still such a novelty to me, and I lay still, savoring the cool air around me and listening as my camp mates start to stir. Sitting up I look around, see feet dangling from Leslie and Fabs hammocks and grudgingly start to gather my things. Wanting to get an early start, we pack our shelters, gather our bear bags and meet at the unused fire ring for breakfast.
As usual discussion about breakfast foods range from, coffee, hot chocolate, my bagel with bacon, oatmeal, cold cereal, protein bars and will a boiled egg survive a backpack. I consider that I could do without a stove in the summer months but my morning coffee is such a joy, the weight is worth it.
Tummies filled, we tweak our packs and look around our site. No sign that we were there, we move on toward Big Hump.
Passing the old section of the AT our steps take us out of the forest and across the base of the Big Hump. We are not alone. Massive, majestic African Long Horn Steer share our trail. These steer are part of a conservation effort to preserve the balds.
“These grassy balds are rich in botanical goodies. On the Roan balds alone, 27 plant species are recognized as threatened, endangered, or sensitive. Many are normally found in colder, northern climes. You’d have to travel to Ontario, Quebec, or Newfoundland to find significant populations of green alder, bronze sedge, and greenland sandwort, but on the Roan highlands they thrive.” Audubon magazine 2002
The steer help to prevent the woody shrub and fast growing briers from taking over the bald. We are fascinated…….they ignore our gaping stares and multiple photographs. As we climb, the fog begins to break and the view surround us , mountains after mountains layered in the distance. Maybe it is because we are rested but spirits are high as Big Hump doesn’t seem as daunting as Little Hump. (April and I break out into a mini chorus of “My Hump My Hump….”)
We sit on the rocks, admiring natures handiwork, the breeze chilly enough for our jackets. The sun comes out as we begin our descent along the ridge and head down toward Doll Flats. Almost immediately after entering the tree zone, we begin to encounter narrow rock fields slowing our pace considerably.
The slick moss covered rocks on the narrow trail with little room for error, demands our full attention, step by step carefully placing our poles we make our way. Again, we stretch out caterpillar style at our own pace, losing sight of the head and the end. Occasional smooth trail breaks let us look about and we spot immense Christmas tree farms in the distance nestled in the valleys of North Carolina.
At last, we meet at Doll Flats, a nice large camping area with great sitting rocks and a water source. Boots are removed, the rock damage is assessed and we discuss the usefulness of my silver thermal bubble wrap that I mooched from the World Market. (These include, it was free, weighs near nothing, waterproof, place to sit, place to put your stuff as you unpack, place to lay you stuff under your hammock, insulating layer in your hammock, and creative clothing options…)
Hemlock gets water, we stretch, snack, compare injuries, curse the rocks and wait for Patty and April. We finally spot them, April limping and Patty continuing to encourage all the way. The rocks have taken there toll on our friends feet and we all spring into what we do best. First aid supplies are offered from each pack, cool water, snacks, duct tape, a place to sit and sympathy abounds. We wrap her in silver bubble wrap, feed her giant marshmallows and murmur encouragement and sympathy.
This part of the trip stands out to me from all the other moments. This is what we do, we care about our friends, we set aside any selfish desires and take care of our own. We have all had that day, where we hit the wall, twisted our ankle, felt wonky, had no energy and needed that little something extra. I’m grateful that we do not disappoint….
Soon the feet are wrapped, morale is restored and once again we head down toward 19 E and the Hostel. Thinking the rocks were behind us, we are a bit startled to hit more rocky fields, jutting sharply out of the ground with no margin for error. I fall twice adding to my collection of weekend warrior bruises, my feet betraying me on the slippery surfaces. But onward we press, stopping momentarily at the Apple Shelter to chat with a nice young man, who has thru hiked the AT.
Knowing we are close quickens our pace and soon we hear the sounds of the road. A third of mile on the pavement and our car is in site. We change to dry clean clothes, hop in the car and hurtle toward home.
Somewhere around Weaver, Tennessee the urge for caffeine strikes and I am delighted to find an Ingles with a Starbucks. Driver and Navigator hop out leaving the “kids” in the car, entertain a puzzled little barista, get our fix and zoom off.
The trip home is every bit as much fun, as we relive the trip, tell stories and laughter spills out the windows along the highway. Tomorrow we will be back to our normal lives and will smile as we think of our grand adventure. Happy Trails!
For More Photos of the Trip CLICK HERE
About: The Southeastern Women Backpackers are a meet up group. The members share a love of the outdoors and challenging themselves in the same.