Today could not have been more opposite to yesterday. The sky was blue and sunny and it remained that way until the sun went down. Despite yesterday’s rain, the trail was in great condition, and it even started out with a five mile downhill trend. The landscape has returned to the leafless hardwood forests and rhododendrons tunnels again, but after yesterday, I’m happy with anything I can see.
After crossing Allen Gap, the end of the downhill, I entered Cherokee National Forest and some of the old school sections of the A.T. The shelters are the old log type, but the most prominent feature is the lack of switchbacks. That means that most of the 2,500 foot climb to the summit of Camp Creek Bald was straight up hill. Just when I was approaching the last big climb, the trail was suddenly rerouted to a brand new trail section that followed the contour around the side of the mountain to gently climb and reconnect with the old trail. Well played, North Carolina Mountain Club. Well played.
Before setting off this morning, I was studying my trail guide and noticed that there was a reasonably flat section near the end of my day called Firescald. What really caught my eye was that the guide mentions a 1.5 mile bypass trail and says “A.T. between bypass points is rocky and strenuous.” Now we’re talking!
I don’t remember reading anyone’s A.T. journal where they mentioned this section of the trail. Maybe most folks, having recently come from GSMNP, are just “meh” to this sort of thing at this point, but I thought it was the most awesome thing ever! Just imagine a mile or so of exposed rocky ridge line with sheer drop offs, cliffs, and views on both sides. I spent hours up there climbing around, exploring side trails, and taking pictures. The Firescald trail, along with the Whiterock Cliffs and Blackstack Cliffs are really something to behold. Unless the weather is like it was yesterday, and that is why they have the bypass trail.
After playing on the rocks for most of the afternoon, it was nearly dark before I arrived at the Jerry Cabin Shelter. Just enough time to follow the usual routine of setting up my tent, getting and filtering water, and cooking and eating dinner. The Jerry Cabin Shelter is also another milestone. I’ve completed 300 miles!