AT Day 009: Sunday April 16  2023

Mile 90.3+ 20.1 miles/32.2 km
Total Distance Hiked: 110.4 miles/ 176 kilometres

Beech Gap – Carter Gap Shelter –  Betty Shelter – Moony Gap – Bearpen Gap – Albert Mountain  – Big Spring Gap – Long Branch Shelter – Glass Mine Gap – Rock Gap Shelter – Wallace Gap – Winding Stairs Gap – Moore Creek

A: 3835ft~xx m – D:4265ft~xxm

Sometime around 3 am I was woken by the sound of rain on the tent.I spent a some time half awake thinking of ways we could pack up in the morning without getting the tent wet. It was humid and there was quite a bit of moisture condensing on the inside of the tent. By 6 the rain had eased and only the moisture from the trees made a peter-pater sound on the tent.  What a relief. Patches of blue sky promised an OK kind of day ahead. The weather prediction is for a warmish rainy  day. Let’s see how it unfolds.

We broke camp and Hammer folded the sodden tent into his pack. The ground was wet and soggy underfoot but we were grateful to see small patches of blue sky. Glimpses of beautiful red foliage bursting into bloom, illuminated by slivers of light made for a beautiful  start to the day.  The sound of a woodpecker hammering away echoed through the treetops. It was such a treat to spot the source of such enormous sound. The bird was surprisingly small.

The trail went up and down nothing too onerous – and we had almost mystical light at times. From full fog to slivers of light shining through the fog.  It really all felt like a bonus today.   The sun broke out for a bit so we decided to stop early in order to dry the tent and cook lunch. The sun soon disappeared, rain showers returned and then the sun came out again. It was delightful in the end.

We passed two shelters this morning both busy with hikers. There were warnings about troublesome bears on this section of trail. We saw no evidence of bear activity but all the same were happy to leave.
As we had lunch early I was worried that the afternoon would drag on a bit. And it kind of did. Soon after lunch at Mooney Gap we had a gnarly climb up Albert Mountain which has a fire tower on top. The climb was not long but it was steep and rocky and lung busting. It was a relief to be rewarded with great views from the top. The valleys below are the subject of academic studies on watershed management . Everything looked so lush and green.

From Albert Mountain we had an afternoon of very easy soft trail mainly downhill it felt like it was all downhill where we could kind of not really think too much about where we were walking and just let our mind wonder.  It was a lovely afternoon. We hiked pretty much alone most of the day and we did not see any other hikers. So far our observation is that hikers congregate around the shelters.  We seem to start a little bit earlier than anybody else so we pretty much don’t see anyone while we’re hiking.

We passed Rock Gap Shelter around 4pm afternoon, a few tents were dotted around. It was tempting to stop here, the shelter looked quite nice and the campsites were in the sun. I was begining to imagine how nice it would be to be horizontal, listen to a book before the sun goes down. But we had agreed earlier we were going to hike till about 6pm. About half an hour after leaving Rock Gap the skues turned steely grey and soon rain followed. We were caught in a rain squall that showed no indication of passing. Climbing up Wallace Gap we were lashed by the rain and the wind but we had no choice but to keep moving. The rain lasted about an hour. Most unpleasant especially when exposed to the wind up on the ridges. It was such a relief that the trail dropped down off the ridge towards Winding Stair Gap. By the time we made it to the road, the sun was back out. Although it was low on the horizon so offered little warmth. It was a relief to find a campsite right on 6pm. A great spot by a creek, surprised to see no one else camped here.