View Full Version : Last section hike before the Big One.

12-22-2009, 19:44
A couple of friends and I have been doing after-Xmas section hikes since 2004. Last year we did Davenport Gap to Sam's Gap, NC. We're are picking up where we left off last year and hiking 97.5 miles N to Dennis Cove.

I'm parking my car at Dennis Cove and Bob Peoples, of Kincora Hikers Hostel, is shuttling us down to Sam's Gap under I-26. We are starting on Sat. 12/26 and finishing 8 days later on Jan. 2nd, 2010.

We're gonna be covering all the balds and the last spot over 6000 ft until Mt. Washington in the Whites of NH. To say I'm excited would be a bit of an understatement.

It appears we may see a little more Winter than usual this time. It's all good. Plus it's gonna be cool as heck seeing all this territory again around mid-May on my thru.:D

12-22-2009, 23:54
Please post about your hike when you get back. That sounds like a great way to spend that week between Christmas and NYD. When I was young, my brothers went off and did this because it was their college break. I was so jealous! Have a wonderful time.

12-23-2009, 07:26
Sounds llike a blast!

12-23-2009, 07:29
Im jealous. I would love to be doing that section next week. You will have a blast. Please let us know how your trip went as soon as you return! Have fun and be safe!!! Oh yea, take LOTS of pictures. I know it is going to be B-E-A-utiful!!!!!!

12-23-2009, 19:59
It looks like we'll be spending New Year's Eve camped at Doll Flats. That beats watching the ball drop on the boob tube by about a million percent.

01-01-2010, 00:18
The three of us went in as planned at Sam's Gap at 11:30ish on Sat 12/26. Dropped the car off at Kincora and Bob Peoples shuttled us to our starting point. It was only 7.6 miles to our destination for the night, Bald Mtn Shelter. No big deal with 6 hrs of daylight left, right? Hah!

We started seeing snow on the trail from the very beginning. It started getting deeper as we ascended. We passed a couple who set their tent up on a small rise. We followed footprints on the trail until they suddenly stopped. The couple had turned around and set up camp back behind us. No more footprints to follow. Only virgin snow. We marched on but our pace was slowed. I was breaking trail when Mike (Safari Michelle) caught up w me. I asked him where Cheesewhiz was and he said right behind us. He took off and I followed. We lost the trail numerous times and the light was fading.

We were losing light well before the summit of Big Bald. By the time I got there the sun had already set but the sky was ablaze w crimson and purple. The wind and cold were brutal. I fought on and staggered into Bald Mtn shelter at 6:40 or so. Safari was there but no sign of Cheese.
We ate a quick dinner and Safari suited up to look for Cheesewhiz. He went out for 4 hrs but had no luck and returned at midnight. Alone. We decided to see what happened the next morning before deciding what to do. We woke and decided to stay at the shelter till 10 before alerting the powers that be.

At 10 till 10 Cheese staggered in to the shelter. He lost the trail following a hunter's footprints downslope. When he realized his error, light was fading so he climbed back to the ridgeline and set up camp for the night. We spent 2 hrs thawing him out and headed N towards No Business Knob shelter. The snow abated as we headed downslope. The big problem was blow-downs. From the north side of High Rocks forward we encountered blowdown after blowdown. The scrambling in, on over, under, thru or around slowed us down and we didn't get into the shelter until late. I stayed behind w Cheesewhiz to make sure he made it to camp.

There we met the remaining four of our expedition: my coworker John and his brother-in-law Patrick as well as 2 friends of Patrick's, Jason and Hunter. They parked at Spivey Gap and hiked up that afternoon.
The next morning the whole crew headed N. This was the only day we saw naked ground. We were heading downhill, mostly, towards the Nolichucky River and then back up to Curley Maple Gap shelter. No snow to speak of but blowdown after blowdown blocked our way. We still made pretty good time and made it to camp with daylight left in the sky. The only time that was to happen this trip.

The next morning proved to be the beginning of the end. Patrick and Jason decided to head back S to Uncle Johnny's on the Nolichucky to get a shuttle back to their truck in Spivey Gap. Patrick's knees had taken a beating from all the gymnastics involved in navigating the blowdowns and he didn't think he could continue. We said our goodbyes and headed N. We were down to five.

The trail headed back into the snow. Soon I came across Cheesewhiz sitting in the trail, looking like warmed-over you-no-what. He was pulling off a boot to examine some issue or another and he began to ring off a litany of failing joints and body parts. I told him I would wait for him at Indian Grave Gap before I headed up Beauty Spot. I waited nearly an hour and started hiking back when I met him coming down the trail. His knees were toast as well. We decided he would head back to Kincora and wait for us. I headed N. Now we were down to 4.

Safari Michelle was in the lead, followed by John and Hunter, the only survivors of the second 4. Due to my waiting on Cheese I was better than an hour and a half behind them. I started up Beauty Spot. Tere were plenty of footprints in the deepening snow due to dayhikers so the hike up was relatively easy. Beauty Spot is aptly named. The views were striking.

After Beauty Spot the footprint reduced to three sets ahead of me. I started up Unaka Mtn. The snow was getting deeper and the sky darker. Soon I met my 3 companions coming downslope. Neither John nor Hunter had gaiters or snow pants so the deepening snow was cascading into their boots. Their feet were wet and cold and did not feel it would be wise to continue. So, after saying "No regrets", they headed back down towards Indian Grave Gap.

So now we were down to two, Safari Michelle and me, El Flaco. The last two survivors (or idiots, depending on your point of view). They made it 3/4's of the way up Unaka when they turned around. Safari was as determined as I to continue to Cherry Gap shelter. His determination began to falter as the daylight diminished. He had broken trail all day and was feeling it. I took the lead as we headed over Unaka.

The forest on the summit of Unaka Mtn was dark, snowy and primeval. Crossing over we were slogging thru drifts of fresh snow on top of the previous week's hammering. The drifts completely obliterated the trail. The countours were erased. Postholing downhill thru the moonlight snowscape, devoid of any trace of the hand of man except an occasional white blaze was as wild an experience as I can recall having.

We finaaly made it to Cherry Gap Shelter around 7:30 or so. The shelter was empty with no sign of any visitors barring ourselves. I melted some snow in my Jetboil and made some hot Instant Breakfast, crawled in my bag and slept. We would decide what to do the next day.

Wednesday morning we awoke to the same scenario as the previous day. We originally planned to summit Roan Mtn and stay at the Roan High Knob shelter that day but it was obvious that, due to our far slower pace, we couldn't make it. Heading down towards Iron Mtn Gap we were still in drifts of 2 ft of virgin snow and we lost the trail numerous times in broad daylight.

We figured the snow was only going to get deeper going up the Roan and there was more weather moving in as well. So we headed E down NC 226 to a nice little country store, Buladean Shell. Brenda made us turkey sandwiches to die for and her husband Doug drove over to Hughs Gap to find Connie, of Greasy Creek Friendly, to shuttle us back to Kincora Hiking Hostel where my car was parked and we where supposed to have come out on the 2nd.

There we met up with a far better looking Cheesewhiz. He, along with John and Patrick, had helped Bob Peoples with some trailwork that morning. They had already left so, after saying goodbye to Bob, we piled in the car to head home. Bob told us that the weather was taking a turn for the worse and we better get off the mountain as soon as possible.

The snow was falling as we passed thru Asheville. I'm sorry we had to cut the trip short but I don't think we would have made it up the Roan in all of that.

Like Bob Peoples told me as we were leaving. "Don't worry" he said "Those mountains will still be here next year". So I guess I'll just have wait and see them on my thru-hike next year.:D

That's all folks!

El Flaco