Starting with 56.8 miles, 9,000 ft. ascent
The conversation that evening at campsite #40 centered on only one thing – how cold it was and what layers we were wearing.
I had everything on – Capilene top and bottom, another polyester long-sleeve top, fleece jacket, neck warmer, two pairs of gloves, a hat and heavy, dry socks. And I was still cold.
We prepared dinner very quickly. I had brought a quinoa salad that I had made at home and put in a zip-lock bag, so there was no cooking or cleaning up. I boiled water for tea and hot chocolate and that was it.
Sharon and Carolyn were ready to jump in their respective tents but Sharon had suggested that I bring a deck of cards. Since I carried that deck for over 16 miles on my back, we were going to play cards. But I could see that they were ready to go to sleep. We were all bundled up in our sleeping bags by 8:30. I had bought a liner to add some warmth to my sleeping bag but I was still cold.
Stars were out and there was an almost-full moon. You almost didn’t need a flashlight.
Finally morning. My thermometer said that it was 30 degrees and we believed it. More tea and a hard boiled egg and we started up Rough Fork Trail.
Rough Fork refers to the rough water but the trail was also very steep. I didn’t care – I was going to get warm.
We had obstructed views as we climbed. It wasn’t long until we shed almost all our layers.
A backpacker came down asking us where we had come from. He had a map but had no idea where he was or how to read the map. He didn’t know that the big numbers were campsites or that Cataloochee Campground was closed. The Smokies are so forgiving. It’s difficult to get lost on the trails or to get into too much trouble.
We reached Polls Gap at about 11 A.M. and had a very early lunch. We were lured by the sun and the garbage cans.
A party of horse riders came up and turned onto Hemphill Bald Trail. They were heading for the Swag, a very upper class resort, but I don’t think they were staying there.
Then the road walk started – we had 7 miles of road walking. The Balsam Mountain Rd. and Heintooga Rd. were supposed to close Oct. 31 – that’s why we had left our cars on the Blue Ridge Parkway – but the roads were still open. We had to watch for traffic but the walk went fast.
We met several hunters from Maggie Valley at an overlook looking down in bewilderment. They had lost their hunting dogs somewhere down off the road and didn’t know what to do. I assume that they were hunting in Pisgah National Forest and their dogs just migrated into the park. Hunting is not allowed in the National Parks and they looked seasoned enough to know that.
After about two miles of road walking, we left the park, our homeplace, and entered Blue Ridge Parkway land. That’s it for the Smokies on our MST project and I was sad. There will be a lot of entering and leaving parks and forests on this MST project and I can’t get too attached to any section. And of course, I’ll keep coming back to the Park.
Once on the Blue Ridge Parkway spur, there were official lookouts. By now, it was hot and Sharon and I were in shorts.
I had a picture taken of me with my pendant created by Chris Van Dyke, a local jeweler in Asheville. You can’t see the outdoor themed silver piece but you can look at his expensive stuff on the web.
No, he didn’t give me the pendant so I could plug him. I paid full price – and for everything else I mention.
We reached our cars at 2:30 P.M. We had walked a mere 11.9 miles with 2,700 ft. of ascent today. Sharon and Carolyn had a long drive back to Charlotte. I had to check out the next couple of MST sections.
Cumulative after day 5 – 78.7 miles, 11,700 ft. of ascent.