They’re baaack. After being in remission for a few days, the ear worms returned with a vengeance. It started out with a nice rendition of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” that was made even better because it was a mashup of the best of John Lennon and Eric Clapton. This song lasted for a couple of days before being replaced by Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind” (I think that completes my Gordon Lightfoot repertoire).

Then it came at me like a left hook on my blind side. Landing squarely on the jaw, the blow caused my knees to buckle and I started seeing stars. No, it can’t be! Not out here! But the damage was already done. My cerebral cortex was now flooded with “Top of the World” by the Carpenters and soon the levy crumbled and allowed the song to enter my consciousness. The only thing I could think of was Katz in “A Walk in the Woods” saying “Kill me. I don’t care how you do it, but kill me now.”

Thankfully, I have learned that the best antidote for ear worms is a big mountain to climb, because the song easily changes to my old original standby, “Sucking Wind.” And today’s hike served up a couple of doozies. First up, was an 840 foot warm-up climb from Burningtown Gap to the summits of Copper Ridge Bald and Rocky Bald. On the way, I passed Cold Springs Shelter, one of the few remaining old school shelters built by the CCC back in the 1930s. Too cool.

Appalachian Trail

Cold Springs Shelter

While the view at Cooper Ridge Bald was nice, the view from Rocky Bald was exceptional. Rocky Bald was another of those “blue blaze” side trips that most A.T. hikers don’t bother to take the time to see. Of the people that I spoke to today about Rocky Bald, over half of them had not taken the 0.1 mile detour to see it. I just don’t understand this! I, for one, enjoyed the rock scramble to get to the top, enjoyed the log someone had placed there to use as a bench, and enjoyed watching the clouds flow by and seeing how they interacted with the changing lighting on the mountain vista. If you go by the vandalized sign where prior visitors have written “A-Team Approved” and “Do not miss this!” and have scratched out 10 minutes and replaced it with 5 minutes, then perhaps you owe it to yourself to give it a try.

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Climb to Rocky Bald

Appalachian Trail

View from Rocky Bald

The second big climb of the day was a 775 foot, over 1.4 mile haul from Tellico Gap to Wesser Bald. The last weather forecast I had seen predicted rain by noon, but thankfully it never materialized. Instead, it turned into a sunny spring day. Unfortunately, Tellico Gap marked the beginning of another area affected by forest fires. The surroundings were black and ugly and the climb was hot, but I eventually gained the summit. At the junction where the A.T. crests the ridge, there is a short 100 foot walk to an observation tower where you have unobstructed 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains. I’m jumping up and down going ohh, ohh, there’s a tower to climb! I asked a guy in his 50’s that had arrived earlier if he wanted to climb the tower with me, and he responded that he was done climbing for the day. Are you kidding me? I just shook my head in disbelief and took off to enjoy the view.

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Extra Crispy Trail

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Tower at Wesser Bald

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View from Wesser Bald

My destination for the evening was the Wesser Bald Shelter camping area, which is only 0.8 miles from the summit. CCOTT has joined me here along with Grumpy, Chuckles, and Cousin Eddie. A large group, including Boo Boo and Toodles (earlier reported erroneously as Tada) passed this site to go another six miles to the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC). Hot food and cold beer can be a powerful motivator.

Appalachian Trail

Home for the Night