Carey Kish is currently thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, a distance of 2,200 miles over a period of 5-6 months. Entries from Carey’s trail journal are presented here (read them all). You can also follow his journey on his Facebook page.
April 30, 2015: Dennis Cove Rd (Black Bear Resort/Hostel) to Vandeventer Shelter, 17.5 miles, 9am to 6pm.
Last day of April, how about that. 43 days on the trail, 420 miles logged, Virginia within sniffing distance. Yeah.
Black Bear has been a wonderful place. Been here just 18 hours but it has felt like a mini-vacation of sorts. Slept fairly well in the cabin, better after I opened the door sometime in the night to get some air in there. Sleeping bag on the crinkly plastic mattress cover was a bit weird but oh well.
Up to get coffee in the store a little after 7. Then started to pack up. Day hiking today… will leave from here with a light pack (I have my super light nylon day pack with that I’ve been using as a clothes bag) and hiking 13 miles to the other side of Watauga Dam, where the owners here will come with our full packs.
Another shower, then a breakfast sandwich and another coffee. At 9 we set up down the road, Drop Bear, Don and me. Dennis Cove is a supremely pretty corner of the world, must return.
In a half mile we hit the AT and turn north through Laurel Fork Gorge. Beautiful morning. Parts of the walk through here are along an old railroad grade. Walls of gorge rise up high, then we drop steeply down to Laurel Falls, perhaps the best waterfall on the entire trail. Quite the thundering display.
We continue along Laurel Fork as it flows through the narrow gorge. Some hairy passages on narrow rock walkways right over the river. Up again, we arrive at the blue blaze trail out to Hampton, the old AT. Here we turn and continue on the AT to Pond Mountain, through the wilderness area of the same name. Easily at first, we then strike off steeply up the mountain, switchback after switchback. It’s a 2,000-foot climb to the top and it takes several hours.
At the high point at Pond Flats we sit in a log in the sun to enjoy a bite of lunch. Setting out again, it’s bug ten minutes before the skies darken ominously and booms of thunder off to the west are heard. Soon enough it’s sprinkling, then ahead, it starts to come down in earnest. Visibility out over the valley thins. The storm is here and it brings hail! The rain jacket goes on right over the pack.
Down down down we go in the wet. By the bottom of the descent the worst of the thunderstorm is over and by the time we cross US321, the sun is out. At a beach and picnic area on Watauga Lake we begin a long and winding shoreline walk that leads eventually to Watauga Lake Shelter. The entire 4-mile stretch of trail from the highway to beyond the dam is closed to camping due to serious bear problems.
Rain comes on and off and do does the jacket. It’s nice again by the time we trundle across the dam and up the paved road beyond. Ahead, we take to the trail again and climb a narrow ridge, then drop down to Wilbur Dam Rd, our rendezvous point. We’d called Black Bear from the dam and let them know our whereabouts. It’s 40 minutes from the resort to the meeting place, and now they’re on their way.
Ten minutes waiting and Bob arrives with our packs. Off we go for the last 5 miles up to the shelter. Drop Bear and Don get ahead, while I lag behind and struggle with the climb. After the light pack all day my big load feels like a ton of bricks. Rain sprinkles down but I don’t stop to put the rain cover on at first.
I try everything to adjust the pack load but nothing makes it more comfortable. Maybe I’ll stop shirt and camp I think. But I push on with difficulty, knob after knob, climbing and climbing. Finally I’ve bested the worst of the ups, but I have a couple miles along the ridge.
I pass the blue blaze trail to the water and know I’m there. The shelter is just below. I step up to the front of the shelter and ask if there’s space. Fig is in there as well as Drop Bear, but thus guy I don’t know says its full and I should tent out back. I’m pissed immediately, as well as being dam tired. I tell the jerk there’s ALWAYS room for one more (and there was) when the weather is bad. But he doesn’t budge. I say screw it and walk away to find a tent spot. I hate to be made unwelcome at a shelter dammit.
Drop Bear comes over and says there is room but by now I don’t want to be in there. No biggie now, I just want to set my tent up, and I do. Next thing I know jerk man is out of the shelter and setting his tent up. Go frigging figure. WTF?? Too late, whatever.
View off the crag out back of the shelter overlooking the lake and valley of farms to its north is awesome. Rain is back and I cook dinner in the shelter with the others. Good banter, fun, but it gets cold near dark and I retreat to the tent.
Rain is coming down and the wind us howling over the ridge. I’m snug in here and hope it will all blow over by morning. Got cell service today and booked into the Hiker’s Inn in Damascus for 2 nights this Sun and Mon. Virginia is so near…