“Welcome back to Jeopardy! As you can see, we have one category remaining, “Trail Hazards,” and OnthegO it is your turn!”
“Ok, Alex, I will choose “Trail Hazards” for $1,000.”
“OnthegO, the answer is “The Greatest Danger on the Trail.”
“Alex, the question is “What is ice?”
“Correct for $1,000! We’ll now take a quick break for today’s sponsor, Kahoola Microspikes. Keep your grip on the trail. Falling into a ravine can ruin your day and your hike!”
My Microspikes are a wise insurance policy on my gear list. Unfortunately, they weigh over 12 oz and are sitting in Florida until I really need them. We can now all observe a moment of silence until the laughing dissipates.
In all seriousness, today’s theme was “Don’t Fall Off the Mountain.” The 6-12 inches of snow that had blanketed NC a few days ago began to melt with the rising temperatures and then the runoff froze overnight. Thankfully, the first five miles of trail in the morning was relatively flat. But I have no comment about the scenery because my eyes never left my feet. To be fair, the trail wasn’t completely coated with ice, but there was a lot of snow so you had to treat each step as if the rocks under the snow WERE covered with ice. Someone was wearing Yak Tracks because you could see their signature track in the snow, and I’ll admit to the sin of coveting. Later, those tracks would become the talk of camp, but no one admitted to having them.
In the end, I did not fall off the mountain, and no one else did either. But it was a slow and cautious morning that will long be remembered. The ice hazard ended at Deep Gap (there must be twenty of these on the A.T.) as I began the wide, gradual climb to the summit of Standing Indian Mountain. It is unfortunate that not only was this the beginning of a 13.1 mile section of forest fire devastation, but that the overcast cloud ceiling was also covering the mountain summit. You can see the wonderful view I had in the featured picture for this post.
While I’m still enjoying the snow covered vistas, in this burned out area it was like putting lipstick on a pig. The ground was covered with a white blanket, but it still looked like a fire pit and smelled like a fire pit. This burned area is immense and it seems like the fire was much more intense than the area around Plumorchard Gap. I hope recovery will be possible. As a side note, it appears that the drought conditions that made these fires possible seem to have eased. I have not had any difficulty finding water.
It was an easy downhill walk to the Carter’s Gap Shelter, which is the destination for the night. The campground is still crowded as a result of the hiker exodus from Hiawassee. 5 Star and CCOTT stopped short at the campsite in Beach Gap, but we picked up Pockets and Firefly. Boo Boo made another fire which still felt good, even though the temperature is 15 degrees higher than the previous evening. We were just about to go to sleep when one of the NC section hikers called his wife. “Honey, would you order some Hot Wings and have them delivered up here? We could really use some Hot Wings right now.” The five tents within earshot erupted in laughter.