As it turned out, she forgot to wake me up. So I slept until 8:30 am and didn't get out of Charlotte until 9:00. That had me at the trailhead after 11:00 am, so thoughts of making it all the way to Horse Rock were right out. So as I set out I figured I'd erect my tent in Deep Gap.
However, for years I have wanted to camp on the summit of Cattail Peak. Right at 6,600 feet above sea level, it is one of the highest mountaintops where you can legally camp. Since I had gotten such a late start on my backpacking trip I didn't even feel like heading to my secondary choice for overnight (Deep Gap) and opted to just drop my pack and pitch my tent on the top of Cattail.
And so, that's where I camped. I had brought lots of water. Because one thing I had learned after five previous hikes on the Black Mountain Crest Trail is that you can't bring too much water. Since the trail follows the absolute crest of the Black Mountains, you don't pass any springs or creeks since the route is always far above any access to the aquifer. The only reliable water source on the whole trail is at Deep Gap, and even there you have to drop off the slope somewhat to locate the spring.
I have to say, the quiet and solitude were striking. Only two small groups of people passed me after I got to the peak. A couple of guys heading to Mitchell, and a group of four young women who had hiked to Deep Gap and were also going back to Mount Mitchell. Other than that no other person passed by. I had the mountain to myself.
While I'm glad that I camped there, I later read in a news article that 2,000 additional acres had been added to Mount Mitchell State Park and it indicated that the summit of Cattail Peak was now within the park borders. Which means that I may have camped illegally. I'm not sure. The park map still shows the park boundaries ending before you reach Cattail Peak. So I'm not sure.
|The most level and protected area that I found on the summit. Some enterprising camper had even erected these windbreaks there.|
|Grarly old spruce trees. I suspect these are true old folk of the mountain.|
|At my campsite looking out at all of the dark spruce forest.|
|Relaxing in the tent as the last rays of the sun paint the summit.|
Finding my campsite, setting up, and enjoying the solitude.