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.
March 31, 2015: Winding Stair Gap (US 64) to Wayah Bald Shelter, 11.0 miles, 9:30am to 4:30pm.
Author’s note: Journal entries are incomplete for March 28, 29 and 30. I’ll catch up on them shortly and get them posted. So what if things are a little out of order. I sure am. Meanwhile, let’s move on to the last day of March…
Huge day on the trail for only 11 trail miles. Steep initial ascent from Winding Stair Gap, then wonderful contouring up and around the ridges and through the gaps. Enjoyable ascent, felt strong. Reached upper side trail to Siler Bald Shelter. Dropped my pack there and headed in the opposite direction up the grassy slope of Siler Bald. Probably a half-mile to the summit, all in the open. So incredibly worth the time and effort. 360-degree views from peak. Best mountaintop so far.
Wayah Bald in view off to the north, my next objective. About five miles, didn’t think it would be too tough. Wrong answer. Just kept hiking up and up, around and around but honestly seemed to get nowhere fast. Old steep forest roads, then rocky, eroded trail. Crossed dirt summit road several times. Rested often. It was warm out, probably 70F at least. But the trail was exhausting me. Packed weighed on me, seemed heavier than normal. Maybe just not my afternoon.
Reached what I a thought was a high point, right at the junction of the Bartram Trail, a 100-mile route from Cheoah Bald SE toward Georgia. Gotta look into that more. Meanwhile…
Bartram Trail and AT coincide for a couple miles. Still more climbing. Reached a spring and stopped to refill my empty water bladder. Saddled up and continued on. Was at least another hour and two miles before I finally topped out at the paved path that leads from the parking lot to the stone tower on top of Wayah Bald (pronounced “why-uh”) at 5300 feet.
Turned and happily followed the walkway to the peak and the beautiful old stone tower. Lots of thru-hikers hanging on the stone patio. A few touristy types also showed up. Climbed the tower for the fun of it, but the views were just as good from below off the side of the patio.
Could see to Cheoah Bald and Fontana Lake and thence to the Smokies. South the vista ranged to Albert Mtn and well beyond. Amazing jumble of peaks and valleys. Lots of wild country interspersed with farmlands and small settlements.
Called Fran and got the scoop on the snow at home on MDI, then headed down the one mile to the Wayah Bald Shelter. Set up inside. Now six inside a couple hours later. Long walk to water, but it’s good.
Windy and cool now at 6:30. Dinner is done and I will be soon. Will finish here then head for my book and bag. Nice spot here up high, probably 4500 feet. On steep slope with views through the trees.
This morning started early, in the dark at 6:30am. Needed headlamp in bathroom to take shower as light had blown last night. Then finished packing up the pack with the new goods from the resupply box and the clean clothes from the washer.
Rolled outside to meet other hikers shortly before 8. Waited together for church van to take us to breakfast. Yep, the nice folks at the First Baptist Church make a pancake and bacon breakfast for hikers every morning for about a month in springtime. They were awesome folks and happy to feed us till we burst.
Stacks of pancakes, piles of bacon, banana bread, OJ and coffee. We sat around and really enjoyed. Church members, hosts and cooks sat at the tables with us. Wonderful conversation. Young pastor Jack offered a brief talk on their church and their faith. Tastefully done for all.
Van took us back to motel. At 9 hopped aboard the shuttle back to Winding Stair Gap, the bus driven once again by Ron Haven, the motel owner. He loves to talk and he’s a hoot and he loves his little town of Franklin.
Dropped off next to the highway at the gap, then headed upslope. Good day.
7pm… Sun turning the entire mountainside across from the shelter a brilliant orange. Wind is up, but it’s still warm out. I’m in the sleeping bag with a good book. Thank you John Grisham, as always.