Saturday, June 05, 2010

Second Day

We got up relatively early on Sunday morning, ate breakfast, and packed up camp. The campsite at the field had been relatively crowded with a number of thru-hikers (people hiking the entire Appalachian Trail). Those folk tend to get up very early and put huge chunks of territory under their feet. They're also mostly in exceptionally good shape from carrying heavy packs up and down those steep mountain slopes for so many miles. The people who'd shared the field with us were mainly all gone before we were--almost all of them "nobo", or northbound. For some reason, most of the thru-hikers I meet are northbound...starting at Springer Mountain in Georgia and hiking through to Mount Katahdin in Maine.

Nice hazy view from the field as we were heading out for a long day of tough hiking.

Another great view of the Appalachian Trail as it meanders through the amazing green of a southern hardwood forest along the spine of the ridge.

Another thing I love about hiking the AT are the signs. They're just cool, and familiar dimensions and symmetry from my youth. They haven't really changed at all from my days as a teenager hiking the trails of my native south. I really like encountering these trail signs along my journeys.

Kevin Yount moves along as we hike over one of the sub-peaks heading toward Peters Mountain.

One of the Forest Service border markings to indicate a wilderness area demarcation. We were just beginning to head into the Peters Mountain Wilderness.

One thing that I quickly noticed as we went into the wilderness is that we began to encounter more and more seemingly healthy hemlock trees. Either the adelgid is playing a game of hit-and-miss in this section of Virginia, or the infestations haven't reached this far west yet, or some folk have penetrated into the forest to treat the trees with insecticide, thus saving them. I just don't have the answer, but it was great to see so many living, healthy hemlock trees.

We passed an intersection with the Allegheny Trail, which leads a few hundred miles through West Virginia. The creation of the Appalachian Trail spurred the formation of other great long-distance trails all over the USA. The Allegheny Trail is one of these other trails.

As we hiked deeper into Peters Mountain Wilderness Area we encountered a large area where the tree canopy had been decimated. I saw many dead hardwoods. My suspicion is that gypsy moths had hit this part of the forest extremely hard, killing off most of the mature hardwoods. If so, this terrain will have a long time recovering. We were walking in bright sunshine when, in fact, we should have had a shady forest canopy sheltering us. It seemed to be good for the mountain laurel, though.

At last! We came to our first reliable clean source of water. This stream crossed the AT in the Peters Mountain Wilderness. We paused here to eat lunch and to filter many quarts of water for the hike to our next destination, Baileys Gap Shelter. We spent a lot of time here eating, drinking much water, and just relaxing.

Our lunch spot beside the creek. Boone, Andy Kunkle, and Kevin Yount.

This was a little spring we passed. We'd gone so many miles with no water source, and suddenly there was clean water and bubbling springs everywhere we looked.

This was a cool shelter in Peters Mountain Wilderness. Nice and solid and composed of native stone. It was another excuse to pause for a bit and relax.

The trail shelter privy.

I had to take this photo of the interior of the privy. AT hikers are notorious jokers. A mailbox in the crapper. I didn't look inside it.

The classic design of the Forest Service wilderness area signs are another one that I enjoy seeing. These seem to be of a uniform shape and lettering style in every wilderness I see.

Here was our shelter for the second night. We'd decided to use a shelter instead of setting up tents. I don't usually like sleeping in shelters for a number of reasons: crowds of other hikers and the presence of mice being two main ones. This one was okay, but the privy was too close to the shelter and a couple of times when the wind was blowing wrong the stench was pretty bad--another reason to avoid shelters. But we did okay. After we got there and claimed our spots the thru-hikers kept arriving until the shelter was surrounded by tents.

This is the last thing I saw before I passed out. I was one tired hiker. The other folk were conversing and getting ready to play cards, but I just couldn't stay awake. I was just too tuckered out.

Boone was tired, too. He soon joined me in slumber. Little did I know that he was plotting to steal my sleeping bag from me during the night. And he did. It was rather clever how he succeeded.

Hiking through the partially denuded area (packed with mountain laurel) as we hiked deep into the Peters Mountain Wilderness Area.

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