Location: Unknown Shelter
Today the Topsail King Mackerel Tournament is in full swing. When I started walking this morning, I was thinking about where I’d be fishing if I were in the tournament and how badly I wanted to be fishing.
I packed my pack from my sleeping bag again this morning. The morning was colder than yesterday’s and the coldest I’ve had on the trail. I was very uncomfortable sleeping last night. I couldn’t get warm. The cold overcame my sleeping bag. I didn’t get cold completely, but I was cold in some spots on my body. My feet were cold, so in the night I put my rain jacket around my feet on the outside of my sleeping bag to help trap the heat. My chest and shoulders were cold. The wind blew into the shelter and into my bag. I tossed and turned all night.
I left the shelter this morning with the intention of hiking 26 miles although I had started late. The first few miles passed quickly. I climbed to the top of Bald Knob and Cold Mountain where a USFS mowing project had opened a couple miles of trail to allow sweeping views of Virginia. I hadn’t expected the bald, so I was impressed and excited to be on it. I had some great panoramic views of the colorful mountains. Since the cold air has moved in with winter, there is not an afternoon haze that blurs the landscape as happened so often in the warmer months. The mountains were the most beautiful I’ve seen and I could almost feel the contours of the land masses as the sunlight highlighted and shaded the ridges and ravines. Farms and woodlands shared the mountainsides and the valleys. Everywhere I could see tiny communities that looked like an open hand on the earth with roads as fingers extending from the center of town into the valley spurs.
I stopped for lunch at a road crossing where there were a few picnic tables and a trashcan. I was excited to empty my trash bag. My Ziploc trash bag is the worst smelling item in my pack, with nasty old tuna packets and other slimy items. As I ate lunch, Wrongway caught up to me. I only visited with him for a minute because he began to discourage me from hiking 26 miles and instead to stop at the 16 mile shelter. I was beginning to listen to him, but I was set on 26. I wasn’t set on 26 for long after lunch because I came across some trail magic at a road crossing. I found a six pack of Natural Light hanging in a bag on a tree branch. I packed it in my bag and stopped at the sixteen mile shelter. Wrongway is a recovering alcoholic, so I sipped on the beers all evening and into the night around a blazing fire that we built.
On the way to the shelter, after finding the beer, I passed through the Brown Mountain Creek ruins. The village disbanded in the 1920s when it sold the land to the USFS, but the interesting thing about the community is that it was settled by freed black slaves. Many freedmen moved there with their families and lived as sharecroppers. Only a few stone walls remain along the creek and there appears to be no place for farming, but a sign says that the woods lining the creek used not to exist and that the area was once arable pastureland.
Wrongway and I had some good conversations around the fire tonight. Most revolved around his mother dying and the madness that ensued when his three sisters and two brothers learned that their mother had left behind a small fortune that she had saved from 40 years of work as a waitress. He said that the family was torn apart as siblings and step-siblings fought over the shares of money. Although the conversation leaned towards the morbid side, it was interesting to hear how family relationships so easily unraveled because of the issue of money.