DF: Thirteen tough miles today. We left our campsite this morning at 8:10 and arrived at Sassafras Gap at about 5:30. Lots of big climbs in between.
This is a busy camping area–maybe a dozen tents here, including about eight young hikers who have started a big campfire and are loudly laughing and talking. It’s shaping up to be a long and frustrating night. Hiker etiquette says quiet time starts at nine–hiker midnight–but I’m afraid they haven’t been hiking long enough to learn that.
Last night we watched through the tent as the full moon crossed the sky and set just before sunrise, so it never really got dark all night. We were the first ones up at our campsite–no one else was even up when we left, and we thought we were getting a late start.
We stopped after our first climb up and down at Plumorchard Gap. We did not go the shelter, since it was a long downhill side trail. Ken went down the other side of the gap to get water–also a steep downhill.
It was very sunny and a lot warmer than we’d expected. With no leaves on the trees yet, we had to be careful with sunscreen. We saw tons of spring ephemerals: bloodroot, bluets, and spring beauties, plus a whole bunch of others I couldn’t identify. It’s been wonderful to see leaves unfurling and fern fiddleheads popping up. Early spring is my favorite season.
Lots of ups and downs in the next 4.5 miles, ending with a very steep down to Dick’s Creek Gap. There were picnic tables at the road crossing, which was nice for lunch and some people-watching.
After lunch, we had a huge climb–1500 feet in 2.5 miles–followed by a bumpy downhill to Deep Gap. Again we didn’t go to the shelter, but Ken went down that side trail to get water. Another very steep climb up Kelly Knob, then down to Addis Gap, then back up another knob, and finally down to Sassafras Gap.
BC: We were up early in the morning. I went and got the food down from the tree where I had hung it, and started hot coffee and oatmeal while Dragonfly worked on packing things inside the tent. It wasn’t too cold, so we could sit outside for breakfast and watch the morning light while we enjoyed homemade oatmeal and Starbucks Via coffee.
We hit the trail a little after 8am. It was fairly easy going for the morning, stopping at Plumorchard Gap for water (steeply downhill) and second breakfast, then continuing to the long descent to Dick’s Creek Gap where we stopped for lunch. By lunchtime it was objectively hot — much warmer than we expected from the forecast, and it would stay that way for the rest of the trip.
The climb southbound out of the gap is a long slog, a 1200 foot climb over 2.2 miles to the top of Powell Mountain. But we handled it, stopping at the side trail to Deep Gap Shelter so I could go get water (again, steeply downhill). Then we had two more steep climbs late in the afternoon, 600 feet over Kelly Knob, and another 400 foot climb over a nameless peak before reaching our destination for the evening, Sassafras Gap. This was a 13+ mile day, a little long for the second day out, but doable. Dragonfly had no trouble with her IT Band issues today, even with the longer mileage.
There were easily a dozen hikers here already, as the gap has many campsites and a good water supply. I went for water (very steeply downhill for a change) while Dragonfly set up camp again and made dinner. On the way back up from the water source I met a young thru-hiker heading down with her pack, which I suggested she leave up top — the side trail to water was truly exceptionally steep, even for the AT.
We enjoyed Creole Rice with a bag of chicken and the rest of the bacon, plus a fair amount of Tabasco sauce. A group of young hikers had a spectacular fire going all evening, though they were quiet by 9pm and we enjoyed a pleasant night’s sleep (though I did wonder how well they had put out their fire given the dry conditions).