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[ft-l] Appalachian Trail trip report: Devil Fork Gap to Allen Gap

  Devil Fork Gap south to Allen Gap (NC/TN), 20.2 miles, 6 days.

You've already done the math, haven't you?  That's right--the first  5
days I hiked 3 mi./day, and the last day I hiked 5 miles.  I called this
my "Hardly Hiking" hike.  First time I've hiked this leisurely, and it was
really quite nice.  Also, I forgot my camera (with the tiny thermometer
attached to the strap), so I wasn't thinking about taking pictures or
checking the temperature;  I was just strolling along and chatting with
all the (thru)hikers headed north.  The climbs/descents were so easy
compared to Georgia, that it really did seem like a stroll.  This section
begins about 35 miles north of Hot Springs and I hiked it north to south.

SUN. 4/25/99:  Devil Fork Gap to Flint Mountain Shelter--
        My son shuttled me to the Trail from his home in Asheville so I
wouldn't have to be concerned about leaving my car at a trailhead.  Got on
the Trail at 2:15 pm.  Beautiful day, sunny and probably 70 deg.  With the
first step, I felt like I was "home again."  About 5 min. into the hike,
realized I had forgotten the camera.  Agonized about this no more than 2 min-
utes--that's how good I felt about everything else.  Very smooth and easy
trail.  Didn't walk fast.  Met Yard Man and McGiver on the way.  Got to
shelter about 4 o'clock and found a very interesting bunch of folks. Walk-
ing Home (from Maine) recognized my trailname from the WATL listserve.
Also there were Rockfish, Yellowstone Man, Black Sheep (Navaho lady), Mike
(New Mexico), Mike (Washington state), Maineak (AT '91 in 55 days plus)
and his Peruvian wife Rina, two medical students from La., & a few others.
The shelter register had been left there by Baltimore Jack and had been
signed by Quercus, Paddler, Free Spirit, Del Doc, Bristlecone, and Merlin,
among others.  Nice campfire courtesy of Rockfish, and interesting
conversation--a lot of it courtesy of the gregarious Maineak.  Set up tent
nearby.  Rain started early the next morning (4 or 5 am?)  and continued
off and on (mostly on) through Friday morning.

MON. 4/26/99:  Flint Mountain Shelter to just south of the Shelton graves
        Found a break in the showers and got going a little after noon (!)
after crossing paths with Ape, Neptune, and another older man.  Ape had a
Dana longbed pack which I tried on.  Yum yum!  On the trail, met Cyrus (a
Husky) and Husky (its owner).  Got to the Shelton graves and found a new
stone had been placed for the young civilian boy who was also killed in
the ambush.  The guide books say he was 15, I believe.  But the stone
reads: Millard F. Haire b. 1850 d. 7/1/63 so it looks like he was 13, or
possibly 14.  Went downhill to a spring, got water, came back up and
tented just into the woods south of the gravesite clearing in a beautiful
section of white pines with a carpet of white, snow-like Spring Beauties.
It had been raining lightly while I was hiking and pumping water.  Then it
stopped while I set up the tent.  But before I could eat dinner, it
started up again.  From then on, I had to eat every meal "indoors" except
lunch the last day.  Not what I had been anticipating.
        The trees at the higher elevations were just leafing out.  I saw
all the colors of violets, huge carpets of Spring Beauties, one Bloodroot
blossom, lots of Trout Lilies, a few Trilliums, and quite a few wild Iris.
A few other flowers were beginning to blossom, but I don't know their

TUE. 4/27/99:  Shelton graves to Jerry Cabin Shelter--
        While I was eating breakfast (in my tent :-P ) J.B. and Cy (Sigh?)
passed; also Willow who started out thinking she'd just go to Damascus but
now thinks she just might try for Katahdin, Chance who's "slackpacking"
with Pittsburgh's group, Papa Squat who takes a lot of rest breaks, and
Grizzly.  Got on the Trail about 11:30 and passed Lydia and Red Fox who
are also with Pittsburgh, Siesta, Rain Dancer and Spring Fever (AT-L &
ATML) who are with Pittsburgh, Bronco, and Cranberry.  When I reached the
Howard Bassett memorial stone, I found out the correct spelling is
"Bassette" (Sam Waddell verified that's correct).  It was so foggy/cloudy
that all of the "views" were actually "non-views."  :-(   Shortly after
the Bassette memorial, there's a LONG open field--three tenths of a mile
long.   Just before I got to it, I began to hear thunder.  By the time I
_did_ get to it, the lightening was much closer; and it kept on getting
closer!  Have you ever seen an old lady with a heavy pack _running_ down
the trail?  Not a pretty sight, but it got me across the open field and
(relatively) safely into the trees before the storm was on top of me.  The
folks who were on the trail headed _north_ to the shelter were not so
lucky.  They were more exposed and more than a little nervous, they said
        When I arrived at Jerry Cabin Shelter in the rain about 2 o'clock,
there was a bunch of wet folks there:  Kinnickinic (had met her at '98
Gathering; she's a Trailplace journalist), Cringer, Green Mountain Man,
JoJo, Anonymous Badger, Wingnut (?!), Damien, Too Hot to Handle, Too Cold
to Hold, Pots, Mud Tubby, and Dog Bone.  Many of these went on after the
rain let up, and others came in that night after I was tenting so I didn't
meet them.  I set up my tent in Chestnut Log Gap after getting water at
the spring located UP the hill from the shelter.  It's a nice area with
room for at least six tents.  Also there were Flash and his father Mer-
ritt, Drifter, Steve,  and another guy who came in late and I didn't meet.
Of course it started raining again just as I got my tent up so I was "din-
ing in" again this evening.  I think it rained all night.  I slept well.

WED. 4/28/99:  Jerry Cabin Shelter to a campsite south of the rhododendron
hells and side trails to overlooks at Blackstack and White Rock cliffs--
        Still raining in the morning.  Breakfast "en tente."  This was the
day I had arranged to meet Sam Waddle, the long-time Jerry Cabin Shelter
and Trail maintainer.  He had said his Jeep had to cross several streams
on the way up the mountain and he might not be able to make it if it had
been raining.  So I had not been counting on his coming up.  But just as
the rain let up a little and I ventured out of my tent about 8:30, there
he came down the trail!  Rat Patrol (Randy Tarpley, local trail main-
tainer) was with him.  They brought soft drinks to put in the spring for
the hikers, and Sam gave me a bag of hard candies to give out along the
Trail.  I spent about two hours with them and Sam gave me all the history
of the Jerry Cabin Shelter area beginning back when he was a boy and came
up there with his parents.  He showed me the little bit of chimney left
from Jerry's original herder's cabin, just to the left as you start up the
path to the spring.  What a wonderful time--the highlight of my trip.
After he left, I began packing up to leave when another man came down the
trail and zoomed over to the tent area and said, "you must be Earthworm."
He had run into Sam up the Trail and Sam had told him I was there.  He
turned out to be A.T. Addict (Dan Smith, husband of Karen Berger)!  I was
happy to meet him, because just before I had left home for this hike I had
finished his and Karen's book about their hike on the PCT: "Along the
Pacific Crest Trail."  They wrote the text to accompany absolutely wonder-
fulg photographs by Bart Smith (no relation to Dan).  Of course Dan was
pleased that I liked the book so much.  So that conversation took up
another half hour or more, but I eventually got back on the Trail, and the
rain picked up again.  Up to this point, the trail had been pretty much
smooth dirt, often old logging roads, with easy grades.  But now it went
through a rocky stretch, through dense rhododendron "hells" with side
trails to magnificent (?) views--it was too cloudy/foggy to matter today.
I carried water with me because I wasn't sure I would find the springs
between the previous and next shelters.  And I stopped at the first pos-
sible campsite which, as it turned out, was before the springs.  I managed
again to get the tent up during a lull in the rain, and holed up inside
most of the rest of the day.  I met a few folks on the Trail: Tank, Plank,
Pokey, Red, Little Feet, Galahad, Aunt Marty, Pixie, An Cruiter (Gaelic
for "Irish Harp";  this is how he spelled it for me; someone else has
mentioned him as Au Cautier), a guy with a pinwheel sticking up from one
side of his pack frame and a star-on-a-stick on the other side (forgot his
name), Smoky Jack, Maui Matt, and Tiki (who uses a tiki torch as one of
his poles).  The ravens croaked, the wind howled up and over the rocky
rhododendron heights, but I was in a wind-sheltered spot and I slept well
in spite of the sloped ground on which I slept.

THUR. 4/29/99:  From campsite to Little Laurel Shelter--
        It was clear when I first peeked out of the tent, but cloudy again
within the hour although the rain held off until I started hiking.  As I
breakfasted, Pieces, Trailboss, and many others whose names I didn't get,
passed by.
        Previous days, I had hiked in Supplex shorts, Coolmax t-shirt, and
Goretex rain hat.  Today I decided to forgo the hat.  My hair got plas-
tered down with sweat when I wore it; today it could get plastered down
with rain.  It was a bit warmer, so I figured I didn't need the hat to
keep warm enough.  I was right.  But I sure ended up looking the perfect
picture of "drowned rat" elegance!
        The Trail went back to its nice smooth dirt character and was
gently graded, with switchbacks.  Soon passed the springs and the inter-
section with the Seng Ridge Trail.  Still no views, of course, but very
pretty woods and flowers.  Didn't pass too many people, maybe a half
dozen; the only name I remembered was Pooh.  Pretty soon the trail started
to descend, and I was at Little Laurel Shelter about 2 o'clock.  There, I
found Dingo from Australia, Patrick and his dog Bubba, Bones, and 2 or 3
other thruhikers.  I was soaked and beginning to chill now that I had
stopped hiking, so I couldn't wait for a rain break to set up my tent.  So
it was done in the rain, and I think I set a new speed record.  And...not
ONE drop of water inside.  I had managed to get the poles open and clipped
in without the fly slipping off and allowing water through the netting in
the top of the inner tent.  Afterward, there was a quick strip-and-dry and
change into layers of dry clothes.  Then a hair-dry and trip to the privy
and the spring.  There were  others arriving and setting up tents here and
there and we ended up with 4 dogs--2 at the shelter and 2 with tenters.
Three were well-behaved and never barked.  The 4th one barked a LOT--but
thankfully, not during the night, at least only briefly about 4:30 am...
It got colder.  And colder.  The weather report heard on my little radio
said it would rain that night, mixed with snow above 3,000 ft.  We were at
about 4,000 ft.   I didn't stay up to check for snow.  It was definitely
raining every time I woke up that night, and it was very windy.

FRI. 4/30/99:  Little Laurel Shelter to Allen Gap--
        Was up early compared to the other days, had breakfast, and most
of my gear packed while still in the tent.  It was raining, of course.
But it was supposed to stop sometime this morning.  A little after 8 am, I
finally realized the rain had stopped.  Ah, time to make a dash for the
privy!  But by the time I was dressed for the public, the rain had started
again.  While I was biting the bullet and putting on my rain suit, I
became aware that the "rain" sounded funny.  I stuck my hand outside and
pulled it back in with a palm coated with tiny hail!  I was glad it was
tiny.  I finally got the soaked tent down and everything packed and on my
way a little after 10 am.  Only a couple of other hikers had hit the trail
before me.  I hiked in longjohn bottoms, Supplex pants, Coolmax t-shirt
and rain jacket.  It stayed cool all day, but I had to take off the rain
jacket after a while.  On the trail I met Montana, Gentleman Jim, Y2K,
Mole, and some others.  Just before the Old Hayesville Road, a dog came up
the trail and would not become completely friendly and approach me despite
my coaxing.  In a few minutes a young man appeared from the road and
called the dog.  They lived just to the south on the road.  We had a
friendly conversation, but I thought I picked up vibes that the dog was
protecting something and that the young man was perhaps asking questions
about the trail and my hiking companions, etc., with an agenda that wasn't
just conversational.  So I was nice but not forthcoming with any infor-
mation, and just kept the talk on how nice it was to be in the mountains.
But the mountains and hike were almost over and "civilization" was already
making its unwanted way back into my life.  Even before this dirt road
crossing, I had  been hearing road noise and roosters crowing, and I
wasn't happy about it.  Sigh.  By 2 o'clock I was at the top of the
descent into Allen Gap. My son wasn't picking me up until 5:30.  I had no
desire to spend three and a half hours in that little roadside store in
the Gap.  I found a level spot where I could lean my pack against a stump
and lean myself against my pack.  I was in the sun, but it was still cold
enough for several layers, including the wind-breaking rain jacket, and
gloves on my hands.  I sat there slowly eating lunch, writing in my
journal, and then just looking and listening and enjoying my last little
bit of time "in the wild."  At 4:30 I hiked on down, got a Coke and some
ice cream at the store and sat by the stove with the owner (by the way,
her name is Blanche Cutshall) and her son, daughter-in-law, and a
terrorist grandson.  It made me appreciate my own grandson all the more
when he and his Dad arrived.  We went into Hot Springs for dinner and then
back to Asheville.
        I'll remember this hike for a long time because it was so
stress-free.  No big mileage, no push to make it to "wherever" before
dark, no agonizing over the best camera angle.  Just strolling along
meeting a bunch of great hikers, mostly locked into a foggy but peaceful
corridor of trees and flowers.  A-a-a-h-h!  --  Earthworm

Linda L. Patton, Reference Librarian, Strozier Library, Florida State Univ.
      Tallahassee, FL 32306-2047 (850)644-5019 lpatton@mailer.fsu.edu
          "A world without wilderness is a cage." -- David Brower
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