MOUNTAIN LAKE WILDERNESS
AT Day 043: Saturday May 20, 2023
Mile 657.5 + 21 miles /33.8 km
Total Distance Hiked: 678.5 miles / 1092 km
Camp – Big Stony Creek Rd/ VA 635 – Bailey Gap shelter – Mt Lake Rd/ VA 613 – Mountain Lake Wilderness – War Spur Shelter – VA Route 632 – Rocky Gap/VA Route 601 – Laurel Creek Shelter – VA Route 42 – VA Route 630 – Camp
A:4875 ft/ 1487 m D: 5082 ft/ 1550 m
Despite last night’s noise of a generator, it did not disrupt us one bit. We fell asleep as soon as we were horizontal. I tried to complete the blog post last night but I was so tired I just couldn’t focus. So I’m sure it will read a bit disjointed.
Hammer woke this morning full of beans read to tackle another day of unbroken footprints heading north to Kathadin. I on the other hand was slower to move. It was pleasant to wake up to birds singing. And we had a dry tent and the sound of flowing water nearby. The creek was a cousin of Dismal Creek, called Dismal Branch.
We broke camp and were on our way around 7am expecting to be passed by people leaving the shelter.
I think I’ve worked at what it is about this trail that’s different to the other long trails we’ve done. It really is not a wilderness hike. You’re always bumping up against human habitation in some form or other whether it be shelters which concentrate hikers, frequent road crossings, houses not too far away, hostels or passing through towns. As a result a whole support network has grown around helping hikers whether it be a shuttle or a hostel on trail which serve to make our journey a little bit easier.
Hammer is a stickler for unbroken footprints and for him the idea of a slackpacking or let alone yellow blazing, which is catching a ride around a section that you might find unpleasant, is a total antithesis to through hiking.
As a result we hike through miles and miles of green tunnel up and down, rarely flat, over rocks and roots, and sometimes if lucky on soft flat trail. There are long periods with no views or vistas or interesting plants or animals to distract us, just so we can to make it to Mount Kathadin in Maine.
And so this morning we did a bit more of the green tunnel roller coaster. It was nothing remarkable until we entered the Mountain Lake Wilderness.
The trail flattened out somewhat and the landscape was more open, the trees were not too dense. Quite an unusual landscape we’ve not had anything like this on the trail so far. What is more, the sun was shining and the birds were singing and the predicted rain had not arrived. It really was the easiest hiking we have done for quite some time, really quite a pleasure to walk through these woods. I saw a patch of pink lady orchids which I’m still considering as quite rare. And it still thrills me to see them.
The flat section gave way to a long decent to a creek where we stopped for lunch.
We were joined at the spot by a mother daughter hiking team. Their trail names were inspired by the Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta. Mum had promised each of her two young adult children that she would spend 6 months on a trip of their choosing. She had thoughts of Paris but her daughter suggested the AT. And here they are, and she will turn 60 in a weeks time while on trail.
After lunch we had a long descent towards a road crossing and from the road crossing a long uphill. Time passed in conversation about old days of Hammers weekend sports when he worked at a boy’s school. Reminiscing about the ups and downs and tribulations of being a sports coach. We crossed a road and passed the mum and daughter team where they stopped for a break.
Late afternoon, we had a long ascent on a fire trail which thankfully flattened out at the top. Further along was a feature named Kelly Knob on our map. It was supposed to be an overlook with views of the valley below. When we got there, the rocky outcrop was covered in trees. There was no view.
We were tired but pushed on, thinking of stopping at the Laurel Creek shelter. It was still too early to stop when we made it to the shelter so we hiked another couple of miles through a private meadow. Grey clouds looked threatening but only produced a spot of rain. Overall a nice day of hiking on the AT. Feet are feeling battered but that’s nothing new.
I’ve only hiked the PCT in Oregon and Washington and the AT appears so different. I know that hikers refer to the Oregon segment as a green tunnel and lots of it is. But the Oregon trees are often so very tall and the understory doesn’t seems as dense and encroaching as the AT. I can almost feel the humidity which, of course, encourages those most wonderful flowers you are sharing with us. I’ve only hiked the AT in New Hampshire in late September and it is unique! Thanks for your daily news!
AT is certainly different. It’s hard and often unrewarding. The PCT almost always rewards hard climbs with something worthy to see.