Location: Beech Mountain, NC
I took yesterday off to spend with family. I said goodbye to Chris, Sarah, Liza, and Winn this morning. They had come to Beech for the weekend, and they would return to Durham while I slack-packed today. Mom drove me to Carver’s Gap where I started my slack-pack towards 19E. I hiked north to 19E, which felt strange. I could tell that I was walking in the wrong direction because the morning sun was on the opposite side of my body.
I had a great hike across the bald mountains, and I could see sections of the trail on distant peaks that I would not reach for hours. The open grassy areas were frosted, but the AT itself was frozen. Sheets of ice covered the trail for long stretches at a time. The ice was so smooth and consistent that I used it to me advantage. As I walked on the flatter sections and came upon ice, I would keep my speed and slide across the sheet. They were risky maneuvers but helped break up the monotony of the day. As the afternoon wore on, the ice melted and the solid trail deteriorated into slush.
Towards the end of one of the prettiest hikes I have had on the AT, I met a man on top of Hump Mountain who claimed to be an associate of a cartographer. He pointed and named the surrounding mountains, showing me Beech Mountain, White Rocks Mountain, Black Rocks Mountain, the Watauga wilderness ridges, and the peak of Mt. Mitchell. The mountain that the AT crosses shares a valley with Beech Mountain, and I couldn’t believe how close they were together.
Leaving Hump Mountain, I descended below tree line. The trail was covered with boulders. For miles I scrambled across jagged boulders, many of which were covered in slick moss or were loose. I had not expected the final descent to be so difficult, but I managed to make decent time. Once on flat ground in the valley, I ran the last mile to the road. The trail followed a small creek, and the soft soil along the bank spared my knees from jarring steps.
When I arrived at 19E a few minutes late, mom was just backing into the trailhead. Pi and Laces had come out of the woods just before me, and Pi completed his flip-flop right there at 19E. He had become ill earlier in the week though, and he needed medical attention. Mom drove him to a nearby hostel where Pi could rest and Laces could find help for him.