Sunday, August 11, 2013

Shakedown Hike #1 / North Carolina Advernturetime: Conquering Albert

Monday, July 22

I awoke refreshed and with a better outlook. We packed up camp and headed the hell of out of Betty Creek Gap. And of course, about a quarter of a mile down the trail, we hit Mooney Gap which had a campsite that looked a million times better than any of those in Betty Creek, although there was a “No Camping” sign posted and was situated right along a forest road. We stopped for water, which didn’t take as long as it did at Carter Gap, so maybe perception is everything in these instances. At this point, the next mile and a half was all uphill to Albert Mountain. I donned the GoPro, and off we went!

The going was tough, and the tough got going indeed. We made great time as I pushed forward to make it to our next checkpoint. We passed a group of hikers from the ATC Biennial conference, whose only warning was “It’s about to get rocky.” Rocky was an understatment. There were boulders that we had to climb up in order to get to the summit of Albert. The overhand climb was a little tough because I wasn’t used to the extra weight of my pack and there were moments when I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it. I cursed mothernature many a time on the way up, but when we finally made it, I was exstatic. Beautiful views and clear weather greeted us at the top, and we celebrated with a hot lunch. This was a bad idea.

We hung out on Albert longer than Chase wanted to, but I welcomed the break after our tough ascent. On the way down, the food weighed heavy in my belly, and it we moved slower than anticipated. My feet began to hurt from the steep desent, but it leveled out soon enough. We made it into a beautiful valley area and stumbled upon a brand new shelter. We took the opportunity to rest and to talk to a guy who camped at Standing Indian Campground often. We weren’t too far from Glassmine Gap and the trail back to the parking lot, so we pressed on, stopping to take pictures at a stream coming out of the base of a tree. The trail was pretty easy through here and we were at Glassmine Gap sooner than we expected.

We took a short break and then turned down Long Branch Trail. This trail was narrow and seemed like it wasn’t used very often. There were a few downed trees and we were forced to reroute around them. A lot of the trail was downhill and my feet and ankles were starting to really hurt. We weren’t too far from the car at this point, and I was yearning for a bit of AC and a place to sit down.  The guy we were talking to at the shelter caught up to us and passed us, which was a little discouraging until I realized he wasn’t carrying 30lbs on his back.

We made it back to the car and I was happy to unload my pack and take my boots off. I would have plenty of time to recoup as we now had a 6 hour drive to Raleigh ahead of us. We pulled out of the campsite and pulled off the highway to snap a couple of victory pictures at a scenic lookout. It was a great feeling to be finished! We got back on the road and celebrated further with a big, fat, juicy, disgusting Hardee’s burger.

Our trip was amazing and we learned a lot. I’m hoping to post brief reviews of some of our gear soon!

Betty Creek Gap to Glassmine Gap: 5.3 miles
Long Branch Trail: 2.0 miles

Total mileage: 22.6 miles

Friday, August 9, 2013

Shakedown Hike #1 / North Carolina Adventuretime: Betty Creek Nightmare

Sunday, July 21

We awoke around 8:30am, made a quick breakfast of oatmeal and hot cocoa, and packed up the campsite. It was a beautiful morning and we had some great views of the surrounding mountains from the lookout point at the top of Standing Indian. I felt great as we descended into Carter Gap and we were making great time. The area that the Carter Gap shelter is located in is beautiful , though it is a bit of a hike to get to the water source since it is located behind the old shelter that has since been dismantled. It took almost 50 minutes to filter 6L of water with our Squeeze and were really annoyed by the setback. I also realized that my monthly visitor had arrived and I had not packed sufficiently! Thus began the moment in which everything turned south. We packed up and hiked on planning to make it to Betty Creek Gap before nightfall. The clouds began to press in on us It slowly got darker and eventually the rain began to fall. We pulled on our gear, excited to test out our gear and set off again convinced the rain would stop before we had to make camp. We were wrong.

I became evermore agitated at the whole prospect of hiking to Betty Creek as we got closer and the rain continued to fall. I was tired, sore, annoyed, wet, etc. We had just another mile or so to go, and I became downright unbearable to be with. I apologized to Chase later, as I was taking out my frustrations on him as we hiked the last quarter of a mile to the gap, blaming him for our unfortunate circumstances. Chase had said there was a shelter at the gap, and I was so looking forward to a dry place to sit and nurse my sore feet and tender belly. There was no shelter at Betty Creek. I thought I was going to break down crying. Chase was ever so patient with me though, and I can’t thank him enough for setting up camp and letting me relax and calm down in the tent.

Our campsite sucked. It was muddy and rooty and Betty Creek Gap was extraordinarily creepy. We had a cold dinner in the tent, finishing off the last of the summer sausage and bagels. I was significantly happier after eating and drying off a little in the tent. Chase left to hang the food bag and I sat alone in the middle of creepy Betty Creek Gap, absolutely terrified at every raindrop that sounded like a snapping twig. Chase told me after he came back that the entire gap was filled with an eerie fog, and that he was also creeped out a bit. We tried to get some sleep, and I definitely slept better than the first night, but Chase was up off and on due to the angle of the campsite. He woke me up in the middle of the night to show me a mouse that had chewed a hole in my brand new pack to get at some trash that I had overlooked. Cheeky mouse!

I was pretty grateful for this day in retrospect. Not every day can be awesome and I like knowing how I will react in bad situations. I felt bad for acting like such a brat, but if I had been more prepared, everything would have been better.

Standing Indian to Betty Creek Gap: 9.2 miles
Total mileage: 15.8 miles

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Shakedown Hike #1 / North Carolina Adventuretime: (out)Standing Indian Mountain hiking!

Saturday, July 20

We woke up around 8:30am and enjoyed a simple breakfast. I had a banana and a cup of Tang, while Chase went for the honey bun and a cup of coffee. We left the hotel soon after and arrived at the trailhead a little after 11:30am. I was super stoked to finally get on the trail and was ready to go soon after arriving. Chase took a little more time to make sure he had everything and that the car would be secure, but we were soon making our way happily down the trail.

We did it! I kept thinking to myself, We made it and we are actually hiking! I am setting out on my very first backpacking trip! It was surreal! And awesome!

The Kimsey Creek Trail starts at the Standing Indian Campground Backcountry Information center and then cuts through some of the campground before shooting off to follow the Kimsey Creek up to Deep Gap. This trail was listed in the “More Difficult” section of the backcountry trails surrounding Standing Indian, and they really meant it. The trail began going uphill very steeply within the first half-mile, and I thought I was going to hate backpacking. I am not in very good cardiovascular shape, and I was breathing heavy in under 2 minutes of the climb. But it got easier elevation-wise and we were soon paralleling the creek.

This was both refreshing and bothersome! Such a beautiful mountain stream! So many gnats! I was stopping every few steps to pick them out of my eyelashes. Yeah. Totally gross. (We used a picaridin-based bug spray, and it worked awesome! But it doesn’t repel gnats.)

Eventually we made it the 4.2 miles to Deep Gap! How wonderful it was until I realized that it was another mile to Standing Indian Shelter, and that hiking a mile takes more than a minute. The hike from the parking area to the shelter was pretty and less buggy for sure. We could hear thunder in the distance and the skies threatened rain, but we were spared. Making it to the shelter was wonderful. There were two hikers there who were setting up to spend the night. They had come from Carter Gap that day and enjoyed several weekend hikes throughout the year. They were very nice and even let us have a spare lighter when we realized we had forgotten to stop at the convenience store to pick one up.

We ate a lunch of a bagel with summer sausage and cheese spread at the shelter. Chase and his dad enjoyed the old “bagel and log” during scouting, but I don’t think it will be something I take as a viable meal on the trail. It was heavy in my pack and heavy in my stomach! One of the hikers at the shelter said he was cooking chicken and dumplings from scratch that night, but I didn’t ask him how he did it. It sounded too good to be true.

We filtered water to refill our hydration packs and bottles and carried dirty water to bring to the summit of Standing Indian, which is where we planned to camp that night. After leaving the shelter, it was a quick but steep two and a half miles to the summit. Our campsite was perfect. A grassy spot for the tent, exposed rock to cook on, a clearing to hang the food and relieve ourselves in, everything was wonderful. We got there a little bit late, so we ended up cooking a dinner of black beans and rice and tortillas in the dark. We didn’t get to bed until after 9:30pm. I didn’t sleep very well due to my sleeping pad going flat in the middle of the night (an REI garagesale item that I got for $20, so I’m not that upset). It rained in the middle of the night, and it was quite peaceful listening to the rain hit the fly.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Hickory Nut Gap Inn

Mountain Moonrise 1

Bat Cave, North Carolina
Courtesy of

Our view from the cabin. This is actually the moon coming up over the top of the ridge. So beautiful.