A.T. Challenge – Sams Gap to Spivey Gap

A.T. Fringed Phacelia

Continuing the Appalachian Trail Challenge through the 92 miles maintained by Carolina Mountain Club. This section was humbling. We walked 13.6 miles with 3,300 feet of ascent. I didn’t find it an easy hike. No need to mince words; it was strenuous.

Ten CMC members showed up at Sams Gap on the border of North Carolina/Tennessee and processed to shuttle to Spivey Gap on NC19W. We left a few cars there and drove back to Sams Gap. By the time we started hiking, it was 10:05 am. But that’s the challenge with linear hikes, a lot of driving.

Those are the numbers. The trail climbed right away to Big Bald. Almost no ups and downs, just ups. Hikers just zoomed past me and I found myself in the middle or the back of the middle, depending on how you want to round off. I climbed most of it by myself but I did notice flowers.

The trail was covered with new flowers for the season. Fringed phacelias just carpeted the ground. See above. Each petal has a fringe, hence its name.

A.T. Indian PaintbrushIndian paintbrush also grew in one spot and wasn’t seen again. Trilliums were gone but for some reason, trailing arbutus were still trailing the ground. That flower is usually the first to bloom. What was it still doing out?

Finally, I reached Big Bald after one’clock. Only one person, Steve, was up there. The rest had had their lunch and moved on. I didn’t blame them. It was windy on top and we walked down the trail just a little to eat.

A.T. Big Bald

Big Bald is magnificent. It looks down on the Wolf Laurel resort . There are enough dirt roads that guests are taken up by four-wheel drive to see the view. But can they really appreciate it when they haven’t climbed it? If you just drive up there, it can’t be as satisfying.

We had another six miles to go. Down, down, down and two uphills but nothing like Big Bald. Once over the top of Big Bald, the flowers were different. Only a few patches of fringed phacelias and more trilliums.

I got to the cars at 5 pm just as the rain started to fall. By then, five people had left and a couple were still behind me. I was hardly in the lead on this hike. Seven hours for 13.6 miles and all that ascent is not too shabby but still it was humbling.


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