Day 16 – 100 Miles and a Hundred Mile View

Day 16

Start: Carter Gap Shelter

End: Albert Mountain Bypass

Miles Hiked: 6.4

Total Miles on AT: 100.1


We’ve made it to the 100 mile mark!! Yay!! What an accomplishment! It’s a bit surreal to realize that we’ve come this far, but here we are. But, anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start from the beginning of the day.

Today started off in sync with the weather – dreary, blah, and not motivating. The back of my nose and throat felt sore, I was tired, and not in the mood to hike today. 6.4 miles felt like a long way to go and I wasn’t sure if I wasn’t going to make it. It didn’t help that my food can was running low, and, apart from breakfast, all I had left were 2 peanut butter packets, a Nutella To-Go pack, a hydration mix packet, and a handful of trail mix. While not dire, the situation didn’t look too bright.

Dark clouds passed over the shelter as we finished packing up our tent, a chilly breeze threatening bad weather. I didn’t remember rain in the forecast for today, but hoped the weather would hold long enough to get us through these 6 miles.

I started off the hike in a poor mood, but realized that I would have a much better time if I could raise my spirits just a little bit. Instead of dwelling on my fatigue, I tried to appreciate the beauty of hiking in the clouds. Soon, we were passing through fairytale terrain and the whimsical nature scene coming alive around me lifted me out of my dark space. Today was going to be a good day after all.

A few more steps and we were on a ridge in the clouds. A few drops of rain started to fall, but nothing intense. A vista point revealed cloud-obscured mountains that we could just make out in the distance. A half mile later, the sun started to come out more and another view point revealed the classic scene of clouds dancing around the mountains before they succumbed to the warmth of the sun.

After a gentle descent into Betty Creek Gap, we had a short “lunch” break where I ate my Nutella and drank the hydration pack to fuel our ascent up to Albert Mountain. We climbed gradually to Mooney Gap, then ascended the side of a mountain that gifted us with wild, verdant views of the valley below us. Spring was truly in the air.

This part of the climb felt much more wild; we were perched on a narrow trail cut into the side of the mountain, water spilling down the sides of the dripping, breathing slope. This part was so fun. The smell of the dark, living water warmed by the sun brought me back to my childhood backpacking trips only a few hours east of this spot.

It’s funny how emotions can change in such a short time. With less than a mile to the top of Albert Mountain, I was excited and energized, ready for the peak and the firetower that awaited. Hunger was starting to gnaw at me again, so I wanted to get there as soon as possible.

Despite the short distance, the climb to the top was nearly vertical. We climbed a set of seemingly-unending stairs, stopping every few minutes to catch our breath and take stock of our progress. After what felt like an eternity, I could hear voices. As I looked up, I could see the firetower standing just a couple dozen feet ahead of me. Let’s go! A few more huffs and puffs and I was there!

I threw my pack down, happy to no longer carry that burden, and admired the view and my progress. What a climb! After the fiance arrived, we climbed the firetower and took our obligatory pictures. And, honestly, this was the best view we’ve had on the trail so far. The mountains stretched on forever in all directions. Three hawks weaved among themselves, searching. From this vantage point, I could almost understand how they could spot prey all the way on the forest floor. While I couldn’t see details, I could clearly see the leaf-covered forest floor in between the tops of the bare trees. Wow! What a way to mark 100 miles on the trail.

After chatting with a few people for a while, we caught a ride out of Albert Mountain Bypass and happily made our way to town. Now, we’re nursing our wounds and trying to figure out what to eat tonight. We’re famished!


And that’s day 16.


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