AT in NC: Standing Indian – Betty Gap to Winding Stair Gap - Albert Mountain Fire Tower – 3/31/18 – 12.2 Miles
I’m a daylight girl with a strong aversion to moving around camp before I can see my hand in front of my face. This morning’s sunrise was well after 7:00 a.m. Outside my cozy tent, the drooping rhododendron leaves confirmed the same chill as yesterday, so it’s best to keep moving. I had to take my gloves off to strike my tent and load my backpack, fumbling with cold fingers. Today we’ve got 12 miles to hike and 200 miles to drive back to Charlotte, so a little breakfast, a wave goodbye to the thru-hikers that are awake (not many), and we’re on our way to Albert Mountain.
A great view to start the morning off right!
Some nice work rebuilding this eroded trail section
There is a route to bypass the summit during bad conditions (snow, ice, high winds) and no shame in taking it rather than die on the boulders. No worries on this fine morning. The push to the top was agonizingly steep and long (barely more than a quarter-mile, but hey!)
Albert Mountain Fire Tower (summit elevation 5,250 feet, tower erected in 1951)
I visited this tower with Jim on an exploration weekend in Nantahala back in 2012 (geez, where did those 5 years go?) as part of the lookout tower challenge. At that time Jim and I took the half-mile walk from a parking area at the end of FR 67. Today it felt more legit to approach it via the AT. It’s a place for lingering and contemplating, not just tagging. Thru-hikers straggled up and took the time to appreciate the place, the birds, the people sharing the moment. Rows and rows of blue blue blue mountains…
Okay, still about 10 miles to go, trending downhill but with two significant “bumps” to keep us on our toes. A thoughtful hiker left a sign of encouragement – yay, 100 miles done!
Long Branch Shelter, built in 2012, looks brand spanking new
Sleeps 16 cozy backpackers
The day warmed up and we saw our first flowers of the season (trailing arbutus) and this peaceful little scene
A most unexpected surprise today – I heard a voice calling my name and looked up the trail to see an old friend from Girl Scout leader days! Back in those days Diane B. and I spent many weekends in cabins and tents with girls from kindergarten through high school age, walking in creeks and cooking over campfires. What an absolute joy to give her a big bear hug out here in the woods!
Marta and I finished our hike at Winding Stair Gap and headed home with a sense of deep satisfaction. Overnight backpacking is awesome – you can stand anything for one night, whether it’s rain, cold, hunger, snoring campers, because you’ll be back in comfort by the end of the next day. Then the feeling of satisfaction is replaced by the desire to go out again. Marta has hiked multiple overnight loops in the Standing Indian area and shared lots of good information, and I would feel quite comfortable exploring other routes there. Thanks for helping me close this gap on the AT, Marta! Happy Trails!
“The Forest makes your heart gentle. You become one with it.” ~Pha Pachak