This morning, Train Wreck and the other hiker took off early to log some big miles. I will probably never see Train Wreck again, but he was a hoot and I enjoyed getting to know him. The trail was a mess from all of the overnight rain, but I went ahead and splashed my way uphill the 0.4 miles to rejoin the A.T.
No climb to start the morning, but the substitute was a lot of wet rocks. The trail on the ridge line was basically flat for four miles, but it took a lot of time to pick my way around the wet boulders without breaking something I might need. There were a lot of opportunities for views, but the bad weather was still trying to clear out so I couldn’t see anything at first. But as I continued along the ridge, the views got progressively better. At the end of the ridge, there was a sign denoting the Eastern Continental Divide. I’m guessing that since I was on the east side last night, all the rain I got is now working it’s way to the Atlantic Ocean.
The descent from the ridge was no picnic either, but there were a couple of nice blue sky views. I stopped at the Niday Shelter for a snack. While I don’t condone graffiti, I found the addition to the shelter sign to be highly amusing.
From the shelter, the trail follows a nice old road. Unfortunately, it doesn’t follow it far and I somehow missed the turnoff. After walking for a while without seeing any white blazes, I was about to reach for my phone for a position check, when this fellow blocked to road to pose for a picture.
After backtracking to get back on the trail (I hate when that happens), I entered the Brush Mountain Wilderness. The trail followed, and crossed, the Craig Creek which was really high from all the rain. Fortunately, none of the bridges had been washed away. This area was very pretty, so I had a nice lunch break next to the creek, to fuel up for the upcoming climb.
The 1,500 foot climb to the summit of Brush Mountain started off with nicely graded switchbacks, but quickly degraded into some seriously steep climbing. The temperature had climbed into the 80’s, and the sun was beating down, so it was making it uncomfortable at the least. For this particular climb, however, I decided to stay off the pity pot and just endure whatever it was going to take to get to the summit.
You see, back in 1940, a 16 year old kid, with the help of his sister, falsified his birth certificate so that he could serve in WW II. Because of his diminutive size, he was initially turned away by the Marines and the Coast Guard (he was 5 feet and 5 inches tall and weighed 112 at the time), but he eventually was able to enlist in the Army (at the time, the Army would probably take anyone who could fog a mirror). By the time he was 19, he had been awarded EVERY medal for valor that the USA offered, plus several medals from grateful European countries, making him the most decorated soldier of the war. He won the Medal of Honor by singlehandedly holding off an entire German Company (about 40 people) and then launched a counteroffensive while wounded and out of ammunition.
Audie Murphy was a tough sumbitch, but not tough enough to survive the impact of a plane crashing into Brush Mountain in 1971. Today, on the A.T., there is a memorial honoring him at the summit of that mountain, and I wasn’t about to complain about the climb up to see it. Thank you for your service, Mr. Murphy. As is the hiker tradition, I placed another stone on the memorial in his honor.
Once again following the remnants of an old road, the trail down the mountain was much easier than the trail up the mountain had been. Coming off the ridge, I was finally able to get a bar of cell service, so I sent my son a Happy Birthday text, before continuing the descent.
Tonight I’m camping near the Pickle Branch Shelter. There are no tenting sites near the shelter, so after a harrowing 0.2 mile trip straight down to get water, I walked back up the blue blaze trail leading to the shelter to a nice camping spot I noticed on the way in. My food bag is hung, and I’m calling it a night.