Week Five: Roan Highlands, I Love You

Day 29: 4.4

Final day in Erwin! We went to McDonald’s and the nicest Dunkin’ I’ve ever been in, for breakfast. I’m finally able to stomach some real food, which is awesome. Evergreene and I hiked out to meet Schmutz at the first shelter. We were with Sundial for a bit before she decided to peel off and take a dip in a stream. The hike was easy and meandering for a while but the last point five miles were straight uphill right before the shelter. Why do I feel like it’s always uphill to a shelter?

Most of us were there ridiculously early at around lunchtime, but it was worth it to escape the crazy downpours that were forecast. McFly arrived a little later looking like a drowned rat but warmed up soon enough! All four of us are planning to ease into the next few days due to Schmutz’s shin splints, my stomach bug, and other relatively small injuries for McFly and Evergreen. I watched Sabrina with Evergreene and we all shot the shit until it was time for bed.

Day 30: 12.8

It was raining on us to start the day. Schmutz, Evergreene, and I left camp in the morning thinking that McFly has hiked out super early. We received trail magic of oranges, lemonade, and pumpkin bread at the next gap. It’s been so nice to hike with Evergreene because he likes to talk pop culture and entertainment! I’ve been missing mindless babbling about the Kardashians and Lady Gaga.

When we got to Beauty Spot, the fog/clouds had cleared to reveal a bit of a view! Apparently you can order pizza to Beauty Spot but we put it off for too long and decided to move on. We went over Unaka Mountain in the afternoon and I was taken aback by the beauty of the evergreen trees. It felt like a whole different world. The way down was pretty muddy which was a slip and slidy adventure.

I rolled into the shelter pre-dinner to see that McFly wasn’t there and got nervous that he may have pushed on without us. Electrolyte and Noodler were there for a snack but pushed on. McFly finally rolled in and I was so elated to see him! Hanging bear bags was the usual misadventure. My line got caught on a limb and Schmutz had to shimmy up a teeny tiny tree, almost bending it in half, to snatch my line down! Evergreene and I watched more Sabrina. Schmutz is starting to pick up Sabrina lingo like “I swear to Satan.”

McFly doesn’t shelter and Evergreene and I have this running joke that he has captain’s logs that look like this: “Day 35… the idiots in the shelter won’t stop laughing… I shall turn on my headlamp to bright green in my tent so they know I’m displeased with the ruckus.” I laugh so much with these guys. PS. I think my stomach is finally back to normal!

Day 31: 19.7

I think today will go down in my books as one of my favorite days on trail. Initially, our goal was to get to the shelter on top of Roan High Knob tonight. But we were having such a good day and the weather was so beautiful! The morning was really chill and we planned to meet at Little Rock Knob for lunch.

At lunch, Schmutz pitched to me the idea of pushing on to Round Bald so we could cowboy camp. It didn’t take more than a weather check to convince me. However, we were all really intimidated by the Roan High Knob climb. I put in my earbuds at the bottom of the climb and started chugging up the mountain to Talking Heads. Their music has a steady beat that’s nice to walk to. Three miles into the climb we came across Ash Gap campsite and sat down for a little break. It was a beautiful spot to take a hydration break in the sun. I changed into my shorts for the first time and felt way better! The next two miles were rocky and in shaded evergreen trees. Schmutz kept saying that it reminded him of hiking in the Whites.

We hiked down into Carvers Gap and were surprised to see Blacksmith, Hank (the dog), and Mr. Blacksmith with their RV! Blacksmith invited us all to sit down to have a hot dog dinner with fruit and cookies. It was nice to take a little break before we walked up to the top of Round Bald. I’m not sure what my expectations were for the top of the bald but they were SO far exceeded. There seems to be a misnomer that Max Patch is the best bald on the AT. I would like to emphatically disagree. Round Bald was beyond words.

We found a spot near a splotch of trees that had a well-established camping spot and firepit. McFly set up his tent just in case anyone felt like bailing to shelter in the middle of the night. Schmutz and I collected firewood and the two of us managed to get a roaring fire going without much effort. The evening consisted of wandering around and marveling at the 360-degree views. The sun set over Roan Mountain and revealed a sky full of twinkling stars.

Day 32: 14.1

WHAT A NIGHT. Whoever was in charge of the weather forecast NEGLECTED to look at the winds predicted. It started getting breezy at around midnight and continued for the rest of the night. Multiple times, McFly lost his pillow and had to run downhill with his sleeping pad under one arm and sleeping bag in the other to chase after his pillow! He ended up bailing to his tent before dawn. Sunrise was spectacular and we snuggled in our sleeping bags as long as we possibly could. As warm as yesterday was, today is windy. McFly hiked out in his sweatpants and I had both gloves and a beanie on with my Buff covering most of my face.

We went to the legendary Overmountain Shelter for lunch. It’s a huge red barn that’s kept up for hiker use. Schmutz and I rolled out together to continue on to the road that we were meeting my aunt at. I knew that we were going up Little Hump Mountain and Hump Mountain but I was not at all prepared for what was ahead. What commenced was the windiest, view filled four-mile walk I’ve ever had. It felt like hurricane force winds that were almost blowing us off the fang mountain. You could lean your entire body forward and not fall due to the wind holding you up! At one point, my Pride flag almost flew off the mountain. Thankfully, it was retrieved by Schmutz.  McFly told me afterward that he had been blown to the ground! The four miles across the Humps and Houston Ridge took a while due to the wind but we made it through.

We got to US 19E at around 3 p.m. Falcon, Recap, and Alohoa drove up to drop Aquaman off and pick up Schmutz. It was nice to see Aquaman. I hadn’t seen him or the other boys since Hot Springs. Evergreene, McFly and I were picked up by my Aunt Anna and driven into her hometown of Boone. She was nice enough to offer us a place to stay for a zero day. I’ve been looking forward to this for so long! Boone is a college town, not a trail town, so it feels like real civilization. After we had all showered and settled in, Anna and her husband treated us to a delicious dinner at Wild Craft Eatery. That night, Evergreene and I met up with the boys at a bar where I bested some of them in pool (damn, did that feel good). Schmutz proved himself a worthy dance buddy and Evergreene proved our hiker trash status by ordering 30 wings at midnight. This day might also be one of my top days on trail as well!

Day 33: Zero

Relaxing day in Boone binging Survivor with Evergreene, exploring town, and resupplying.

Day 34: 8.8

Coming out of Boone, Mcfly, Evergreene, and I hit the 400-mile marker in the rain. McFly wasn’t having the best of days so we cut the day short to stay in a beautiful shelter by Mountaineer Falls. He surprised me by opting to sleep in the shelter tonight!

Day 35: 17.8

Another rainy day! We all hiked separately for most of the day. After a relatively mild morning, we had a heavy back end of the day. I arrived at Laurel Fork Falls in the rain and climbed practically 500 freaking wet, slippery rocks to the base of the falls. The last bit to the shelter was right next to the river and the sun started to come out! It was a beautiful way to end the overcast day.

Laurel Falls

We dried out all of our gear at the shelter and sat in the sun. There is an alleged thunderstorm and tornado warning coming our way but I’m excited! The water source here is beautiful. Evergreene and I hiked down to it and although it’s steep, it’s well worth the trip. There’s a waterfall and a little pool that you can sit and soak in. Evergreene and I sheltered it up while watching Drag Race and Game of Thrones. I’m looking forward to checking out Boots Off tomorrow.

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