Starting with 446.2 miles, 73,050 ft. ascent
NC 18 to Devil’s Garden Overlook, MP 235.7
14 miles, 2800 ft. ascent
It’s so luxurious to leave the Freebourne at 7:10 and not have to drive anywhere. I eat a homemade granola bar for breakfast in the room along with several old pieces of apples and diluted apple juice.
It’s still dark so we walk on Miller Rd. with flashlights in hand. We pass Miller Campground and reach the commuter part of the Parkway. Cars and trucks fly out of side roads without stopping at stop signs. There’s even a small section which is a 4-lane divided road.
We pass small roads and walk on the Parkway until Basin Cove Overlook, MP 244.7. That’s the beginning of Doughton Park (MP 238.5 to MP 244.7), a recreation area managed by the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The reason we’re walking this section now is that the Parkway will be closed starting next month. In the worst-case scenario, this section of Parkway will be closed to all traffic from November 1 through April 29, 2011 from Milepost 241 near Doughton Park to Milepost 244.9 at Basin Cove Parking Overlook. The stone guard walls, which have been sinking since they were installed in the 1930s, will be replaced.
But first they have to install sediment protector, a snake like tube of shavings that they’re putting below the road so that sediments can’t ruin the vegetation.
Here, the MST follows Bluff Mountain Trail, a 7.5 mile trail on the ridge. We go through pasture land with cow patties and barbed wire fences, past two overlooks and start the climb to the top of Bluff Mountain (see the top picture).
At the top, visitors stroll through mountain meadows. The view is wonderful. We think we can see Table Rock and Hawksbill in Linville Gorge due south, maybe even Mt. Mitchell. Once on top, we walk on a mowed path through grasses up to a lone tree. It’s windy.
Bluff Lodge is in the distance. We follow the trail down to the coffee shop. I make up for my poor breakfast with a real lunch of four vegetable sides and great cornbread.
We continue down to the campground. While Sharon is behind a bush, I see an old woman coming up the trail. She’s bundled up as if it’s the middle of winter.
“Hi,” I say. “How are you doing?” There are so few hikers that I try to talk to everyone.
“You scared me,” she says, then sits down on the trail. “I didn’t see you and I was deep in thought.” It seems like she might faint. She’s wearing a Camelback water system on her back but she has the tube placed across neck in such a way that she looks like she has an oxygen tube.
Surely I don’t seem that scary. At this point, Sharon comes trotting down the trail and I make sure that this woman sees her. “Oh she might scare me too.”
“No, she’s very friendly,” I tell her.
By now Sharon is concerned as well.
“This is my last hike,” the woman says.
“Until the next time,” Sharon says.
“No, my last hike. I’m going blind.”
“Oh, are you by yourself?”
“Yes,” and she starts climbing up the trail again. We wonder how she got here. Did she drive here herself? I’d rather meet her on the trail than on the highway.
We go through the campground to Brinegar Cabin, a historic cabin on the road. The parking area is full but almost no one is walking down to the cabin. Is it too much for them? One couple finally comes down to take our picture.
When we leave Doughton Park, the trail is now between Parkway land and NC Gamelands.We’re on Gamelands property in hunting season? Yikes… I don’t have any orange to wear.
I had forgotten my orange vest and on the way to meet Sharon, I stopped at a Wal-Mart to look for something orange. The smallest orange vests they had were men’s large so I bought a shocking pink women’s muscle shirt which I tied to my pack as a warning to hunters.
We didn’t hear any shots but maybe that’s because I was scaring them off with my pink shirt.
Cumulative after Day 39, 460.2 miles, 75,850 ft. ascent