Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Hump Mountain From A Different Direction

Appalachian Trail – 5/11/13 - Southbound Hwy 19E to Hump Mountain – 10 Miles

About two years ago I hiked on the AT with the Carolina Berg Wanderers from Carvers Gap to the summit of Hump Mountain…and turned around and hiked back.  Now looking for a moderate hike to put on the Berg calendar and invite some guests, I decided to conquer Hump Mountain from the other direction.  Ten miles round trip, all the way up and all the way down.

Joining me and five Berg members were my friend and book club buddy, Leida, who is hooked on hiking and has indoctrinated her husband, Carlos.  

The Appalachian Trail wanders back and forth across and sometimes straddles the North Carolina-Tennessee state line.  Our hike started at Highway 19E in Tennessee and headed southbound.   Hump Mountain is located in North Carolina at the northern end of the Roan Mountains, the longest stretch of grassy bald (highland meadows covered in thick grass and sparse trees) in the Appalachian range and considered one of the most scenic sections of the AT. 

Weather forecast?  Terrible, of course, 70% chance of rain and thunderstorms.  So we’re goin’. 

Spring flowers continue to thrill:  fringed white phacelia

Can’t find this one in my flower book

I’m pretty sure Carlos was taking a flower photo here

Large-flowered bellwort

Purple wakerobin

Wood-betony – one of my favorites

A steady climb on a winding, rocky trail.  Overcast but no rain yet.

Three miles into the hike we arrived at Doll Flats, where the AT crosses back into NC south- bound, for some “smoky” views down into the valley.  For northbounders this is the last location for camping on the AT in North Carolina.  Leida, Carlos and I were enjoying a leisurely walk and the rest of the group had passed us; however, now the skies were looking a little more serious so we picked up the pace bit.

Coming out of the woods for the final time to approach Hump Mountain, clouds were gathering fast, the wind was picking up, and the rest of our group was coming down from the summit.  Carlos and Leida opted to turn around then.  I went for my goal of reaching the top. 

Thar she blows – Hump Mountain - Objects in photo are farther away than they appear

The rain hit me about halfway to the top.  There was no thunder or lightning, just wind and stinging rain, and I struggled to pull my rain jacket out of my pack and get it zipped on.  Cloud cover enveloped the mountain and sight distance was very limited.  Are we having fun yet?  Out of the clouds a couple of hikers appeared, heading for lower ground.  I kept climbing, repeating a few favorite vulgarities with each step.  If only I had hiked faster earlier…but who knows whether or when bad weather will finally strike?

The Stan Murray plaque near (but not yet at) the summit of Hump Mountain.

I confess I don’t know exactly where the summit of Hump Mountain is.  I couldn’t see very far in any direction.  I know I kept walking on the trail until it began to descend and then I turned around and hustled my booty back the way I had come. 

And wouldn’t you know, I outran the clouds as they chased me back down.

Once back in the trees I caught up with Barbara, one of the Bergs, and we stopped in the now drizzling rain to catch our breath, eat a bite and laugh at the absurdity of crazy people who hike in the rain.  The remainder of the hike down to the trailhead was sloppy and slippery with no stopping.  So the weather forecast was a little bit right, but even a wet day on the trail is better than sitting at home, right?

Dry clothes and a barbecue restaurant – what a great way to end the day!

“A rainy day is the perfect time for a walk in the woods.”  ~Rachel Carson

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