Today is March 20. This date marks not only the first day of Spring but it also marks the beginning of my third week on the trail. My Trail Angel Rachel offered her final trail magic by giving me a ride to the trailhead at Winding Stairs Gap. We had a wonderful time together, and I hated to see her go, but she needed to drive to Asheville for a job interview and I need to head out on the trail. After some final pictures and hugs, we were both on our way.

Appalachian Trail

Trail Angel Rachel

Starting down the trail after a zero day is even more difficult than usual. Not only do you have to face the normal gain altitude payback from starting in a Gap, but you get to do it with a food bag holding four days worth of food. But it was cool, the sun was shining, and the climb was not that bad.

One of the first highlights of the day was passing the 112 mile mark. This is a milestone for me, in that I have now exceeded my previous “longest hike ever” of 112 miles that I did with my son Daniel at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.

The second highlight of the day was climbing Siler Bald. The Siler Bald climb is another one of those “blue blaze” side trips that most A.T. thru-hikers bypass. It is a half mile round trip from the A.T. to the top of Siler Bald and, in my opinion, it should not be missed. Although it was becoming increasingly overcast, I had a fantastic 360 degree view from the summit.

Appalachian Trail

View from Siler Bald

The final highlight of the day was the 1,150 foot climb from Wayah Gap to the summit of Wayah Bald. This climb was manageable because the climb was stretched out over five miles, but it still made for a long afternoon of going up. On the way, I met another couple, Day Glow and Bluebird, who volunteer as Trail Ambassadors.

Appalachian Trail

Day Glo and Bluebird

Unfortunately, this was also another area devastated by last year’s forest fires. At the summit stands the John B Byrne tower, a stone structure built in 1837 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Below is a picture of what remains after the fires swept through the area. I encourage you to do a google search to see the “before” pictures.

Appalachian Trail

The Remains of the John B. Byrne Tower

Appalachian Trail

Devastation on the Trail

Tonight, I’m camping near the Wayah Bald Shelter and it is a beautiful evening with projected lows in the high forties. I must have slipped out of my bubble somewhat as CCOTT are the only folks camping here that I know. Rock Hopper, Mandrake, and Hulahoop, walked by earlier headed to a campsite a couple more miles down the trail.

Appalachian Trail

Home for the Night