Monday, April 19, 2010

I Can See The Smokies From Here!

MST – Day 15 – 4/6/10 – Blue Ridge Parkway: Plott Balsam Overlook to Scott Creek Overlook – 9.8 Miles 

(Note: All photos for this day are by Danny Bernstein.)

Can I get an amen from the faithful? The Blue Ridge Parkway is open! Danny and I had a Plan A and a Plan B for our next MST segment, but we went for Plan C with the opening of the western- most part of the Parkway. So GREAT to be back in the western NC mountains!

We picked up where we left off back in November at the Plott Balsam Overlook. Today was all road walking, but welcome because there were no dogs and very little traffic, plus those unparalleled mountain views. The skies were blue, the temps were warm, and I thought I would burst with the joyful feeling of being outside again. Thank you, God, for giving me the health and strength to walk and walk and walk.

The first two miles down to Soco Gap went by in a blink. Debris on the roadside hinted at the tree damage from the severe winter and the amount of human effort that was expended to clear the Parkway. The following days as the trail wound through the woods would bring many more reminders of how Mother Nature does her pruning.

Packs are ready for the road

From Soco Gap we ascended up, up, up to Waterrock Knob. A fellow on a bike passed us going up very slowly, making a monumental effort. Later he whizzed by us on his return down to Soco Gap – the reward for all that work. Every cyclist reminds me of my husband’s epic BRP ride last year.

 Did I say the temps were warm? Try hot, hot, hot on the road with no tree canopy for protection. Soon down to shorts and a tee shirt, and the backs of my knees got badly sunburned, as well as my forearms from the position that I held my hiking poles. I remembered sunscreen for everything else.

At one overlook we talked to a family visiting from Michigan. They asked for directions to waterfalls in the area, but they had a very outdated map of western NC . We directed them to Dupont State Forest but I’m not sure they “got” our instructions. The man made a remark about the harsh winter and “what global warming” and was not amused when we responded that the extremes in weather were indeed evidence of that. Oh well…

We enjoyed lunch in the shade at the intersection with the Waterrock Knob side road, a great spot to wave to motorcyclists, convertibles and other cars passing by. On the search for a discreet bathroom spot, I discovered the unmarked side trail up to Yellow Face, one of the SB6K peaks. So I suppose I will be back here again sometime as I work on that challenge.

One of many great Balsams at this elevation of the Parkway

A great book cover photo, I think

One of many rock slides along the Parkway

We reached our end point by 3:00 p.m. and drove back to the Waterrock Knob VC to check out the scenery. From this parking area you can see Mt. Pisgah to the east and the big peaks of the Smokies to the west (Clingmans Dome, Mt. LeConte, Mt. Guyot) – awesome! I miss the Smokies.

We then spent the next two-plus hours determining tomorrow’s beginning and end points – always better to do this the day before instead of the morning of your hike. Believe me, you sleep much better knowing where your trailhead is! The end point was tough to find because of a map-reading error on our part combined with a genuine error on the map. (We are using Walt Weber’s Trail Profiles and Maps for the mountain sections, along with Scot Ward’s The Thru-Hiker’s Manual.) We eventually found the correct side trail at Old Bald (blue blaze) and left a bandanna tied to a tree at the intersection.

Home away from home was the Sylva Inn. After a nice dinner at Lulu’s, we retreated to our room, dragged out the maps and planned the next couple of hiking venues after we finish with this series. Tired and beddy-bye!

(Read Danny's story about today's hike here.)  

Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it. ~Soren Kierkegaard


Bill the cybrtek said...

"A great book cover photo, I think"

Does this mean you are going to be writing a book?

Bill the cybrtek said...
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