AT Day 026: Wednesday May 3, 2023

Mile 384 + 11.5  miles / 18.5 km

Total Distance Hiked:   395.5  miles / 636.4  km

Camp – Stan Murray Shelter – Buckeye Gap – Yellow Mountain Gap – Little Hump Mountain – Bradley’s Gap – Hump Mountain –  Doll Flats – Highway 19E – Mountain Harbor B&B 

A:  1885 ft / 574 m   D:4042 ft / 1232 m

Just like yesterday the wind howled through the tree tops and came rushing in great bursts at ground level throughout the night. Our campsite was not as protected as yesterday so it was an uncomfortable night.  I was waking up almost hourly mainly due to being cold. Hammer said he was OK most of the time, although he was woken by the tent fly flapping about after coming off the peg on his side.  

We woke this morning to a couple of inches of frozen rain settled on the ground. It called graupel and looks like tiny bean bean bag pellets. We were grateful it was cold enough for rain to freeze, otherwise the tent fly would have been wet. 

We only have a relatively  short hiking day today, having booked to stay at Mountain Harbour B& B right by the trail in 11 miles from our camp.  Hiking today not going to be pretty but it will get done, was my sentiment when we started to break camp. I was hoping that maybe the sound of the wind will be worse then it actually is once we were out of the tent. 

No, the wind was worse then the sound. Hammer started to break camp while I was taking a nature break, when a gust of wind pulled the pegs out of the ground and the tent started to take off. Hammer yelled ” I could use a hand”  while barely holding onto the sailing tent. Luckily I was finished and was near enough to jump in and bring the tent to ground. We packed the tent and then tried to locate all the pegs that have flown about. Got them all but one. 

It was good to get moving hoping to warm up as we went. Our hands were fully frozen from the effort of folding the tent and the metal poles. My knee took a little while to get going before I could ignore it and just hike. 

The ground was covered in balls of icy rain. The spring blooms were holding up, some only just under the weight of the frozen rain.  It was interesting the see the graupel settled in a spiders webs,  low down amongst the vegetation. Made me realize how strong spiders webs must be.  We had camped about 0.2 miles south of the Stan Murray Shelter. 

We had not had a close enough look at the map of the trail ahead which in hindsight was either a blessing or another case of ignorance is bliss. We walked past the Stan Murray Shelter expecting to find a few hikers camped here. It was surprising to find only one tent erected under the shelter with the occupant still asleep. We passed another couple of tents about 3 or 4 miles later with no signs of anyone moving. I realized now that we were probably ahead of the hiker bubble.  It was either the conditions or the terrain that made some hikers decided to bail out at the road crossings or wait out the conditions in camp. 

The incline up The Little Hump and then the Hump Mountain Bald was brutal and the winds insane. We were totally exposed to the wind.  I got knocked off my feet a couple of times and Hammer at 85kg was struggling to stay upright. It was one of those situations where I wondered if we were being totally foolish to be here in these conditions. And whether we will run out of luck and get into some serious trouble. The effort of the climb made me soaking wet in the layers of clothing close to the skin and freezing cold at the same  time. Our only saving grace today was it was so cold that if it rained, which it looked like it was threatening to do, the rain would be icy and therefore not stick to our wet weather gear. 

Elated and so relieved we made it over the top of Hump Mountain. From here it was a 5 mile gnarly and rocky descent down to Highway 19E and our overnight accomodation at the Mountain Harbor B&B. It was such a relief to get off the top of the mountain, get out of the wind. I felt like I needed soothing, the Hump Mountain ascent was such a brutal ordeal. 

My knee stopped working on the descent, each step was intense  jarring pain. I don’t know how the pain can come on so quickly with a change in terrain.  After that brutal climb with no issues I was suddenly Jack the Peg, with a wooden leg.  I tried different foot placement, no luck and finally after some hamstring stretches it came good.  And we came down the mountain very relieved hikers. It feels like we have been in the fierce cold, wind wars over the past two and half days. It seems that some hikers just sit out the bad weather by staying in towns. It’s certainly tempting but then our visa could possibly run out before we finish the trail. 

About a mile before we reached Highway 19E we walked past the North Carolina border sign. We are finally done with North Carolina and  still have 71.5 miles before we are done with Tennessee as well.   We got to the Mountain Harbor B&B around midday.   We had the treehouse booked, figuring we needed a bit of privacy to recover from the past few days.  The sun is out sporadically but the temperature is still hovering around 6°C with the wind chill. 

The treehouse sways in the wind but we have a lovely big comfortable bed with a few quilts and we are of now very, very happy hikers. Waiting for the food truck to open a little bit later and we can start to get set up for 75 miles to Damascus, the end of Tennessee and the start of Virginia.