On Earth Day, I walked another section of the Appalachian Trail to continue the Carolina Mountain Club challenge. Lemon Gap to Garenflo Gap which meanders over the Carolina-Tennessee border wasn’t much of a challenge–7.7 miles and 1,900 feet of ascent.
What was the challenge was the car shuttle. If I was doing this challenge with another crowd, I would have suggested that we backpack it to avoid the long, long shuttle dance.
We left our house in Asheville at 8:15 and picked up Tish close to Hot Springs. We drove on NC 209 to Garenflo Gap where we dropped off one car. After the three of us piled in the other car, we proceeded to go up, up, up to Lemon Gap passing Max Patch. Finally on the trail at 10:30 am.
After that, the hike was easy. We hiked up Walnut Mountain, down and up to Bluff Mountain (4,686 feet up), an iconic top on this section of the trail. See the thru-hikers on top of Bluff.
Thru-hikers are dwindling as we continue this project. On the first hike out of Davenport Gap a few weeks ago, they were pouring out like water from a spout. But as the weeks move on, most thru hikers are out of the area or have given up.
One marker is the Hot Springs Trail Fest which occurred last weekend. Since the A.T. goes right through Hot Springs, Trail Fest is scheduled when the bulk of hikers are likely to be in town. If hikers are south of Hot Springs, they are not keeping up with the wave.
Flowers covered the trail sides. There were still blood root, spring beauties and other early spring flowers. The flowers of the day were the trout lilies. Once on top of Bluff Mountains, it was a lovely stroll down to Garenflo Gap. We reached the trailhead at 3 pm.
Then the challenge started all over again. We had to get back to Lemon Gap to pick up the second car. Tish was on her way home and we gave a lift to a father/son team that was just doing a short backpack.
That gave us a chance to stop at Max Patch to see the construction project on the trailhead. A few months ago, a couple of vandals rode up the face of the bald, making grooves and ruts on the land. Pisgah National Forest decided to redesign the parking area to try to prevent ATVs from getting up to the bald. Right now, you can’t park in the usual place but you can still walk up to the top of Max Patch.
A lot more driving from Max Patch. We got home at 5:30 pm. Hopefully the shuttles will become easier as we continue hiking on our way to Spivey Gap.