The mid 30’s morning started with an immediate warm-up exercise to get the blood pumping. Beginning at the campsite, there was a 670 foot climb in 1.2 miles to the 5,062 foot summit of Cheoah Bald. It really was a nice way to warm up and the reward for making the climb was an eye popping view. There were vistas to enjoy on both east and west side of the trail.
The trend for today was in a downhill direction with one major bump in the road called Jacob’s Ladder. At Stecoah Gap, after taking on some water, I jokingly told Boo Boo that if he saw me laying in the fetal position at the top of Jacobs Ladder, to please just roll me out of the way. He promised to do that and to throw my sleeping bag over me so that I stayed warm until I recovered. I can always depend on Boo Boo.
With emergency plans in place, I followed the meandering trail to Sweetwater Gap and the beginning of this infamous climb to the top of some unnamed high spot. Holy Sweet Mother of Jesus! Please forget everything I have said about the difficulty of any other climb in the past. This time the trail climbed 600 feet in 0.6 miles, and while you engineers are welcome to chime in here, I believe that is closely equivalent to walking up the side of the Washington Monument. On the way up, I passed a lady on the way down and I said, “Please tell me that I’m halfway there.” She said, “Well……..” To which I replied, “For God’s sake, just lie to me!” There was no picture that I could take to impart the experience, so I’ve included a screen shot of the profile, and a picture of the highway that went through Stecoah Gap, which I had left 1.5 miles earlier.
Following the Jacob’s Ladder “bump,” the trail became a relatively easy route which allowed me to crush some miles. I was cruising along to “We Are Family” by Sly and the Family Stone (in my head), when the question occurred to me, “Why Classic Rock?” I don’t even listen to Classic Rock in real life, preferring more modern music. Is accessing the soundtrack of my childhood a sign of dementia? I have a Pandora channel built around Mumford and Son, and I listened to, and enjoyed, Snarky Puppy when suggested by my friend Larry. But you know, if Larry were hiking the trail with me, his mind would be playing Tom Waits or Tower of Power. Then, just like that, the song switched to TOP’s “What Is Hip” and I happily burned a couple more miles. This is how my mind works when I’m hiking alone for hours on end.
In the end, I arrived at the campsite around Cable Gap Shelter. This shelter was also built in the 1930’s by the CCC, but doesn’t appear to be as well cared for as the last one we saw. The campsite is in a deep ravine without cellular service, but it sets me up for an easy six mile “nero” tomorrow to Fontana Dam.