Sunday, April 14, 2013

Appalachian Trail: Devil Fork Gap to Hogback Ridge Shelter

The other day I made plans to meet up with a good friend from elementary and high school. His name is Colin and he is currently thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. Greeneville is pretty close to the trail and he happened to be in the vicinity so we met at Devil Fork Gap where the trail crosses NC Highway 212 just feet from the boundary with Tennessee. When I pulled up in my car, Colin (trail name Scarecrow) was already there waiting and we hit the trail soon after my arrival. It was exciting to think that the last time I had hiked this section of trail was nearly 13 years ago during my thru-hike!

After we started on the trail, we soon crossed over a livestock stile and headed into the woods.
Colin on AT photo ColinonAT_zpsf26b4ad6.jpg
We ascended up a small mountain and then descended down to another road. After crossing the road we again began an ascent. Soon we passed a small cemetery plot
Grave photo Grave_zpsc9a6a09d.jpg
and then found ourselves roughly following a small flowing stream. Eventually the trail led to an old habitation site, a cabin mouldering back to the earth. There was a small waterfall where the trail crossed over the stream.
Small Waterfall photo SmallWaterfall_zps9dc8e8c0.jpg

As we ascended higher the trail got steep. Luckily great conversation about old times and family kept our minds off the climb. When we had ascended to the top of a ridge we were treated to a great view of some of the distant mountains.
Colin Admires View photo ColinatOverlook_zps51c0b25a.jpg
While the trees in the lower elevations are starting to leaf out, the ones up on the mountains still have a while to go before they get their greenery. The bare branches allow for better views and for sunlight to reach below the forest canopy and reach the abundant wildflowers.
Trail Flower Carpet photo ATandflowers_zpse2e83a78.jpg

We spent some time traversing the ridge, mostly ascending but also descending for short stretches. Eventually we found ourselves at a junction in the trail. A side trail led to the Hogback Ridge Shelter and we followed the trail so Colin could get some water and we could relax for a bit.
Hogback Ridge Shelter photo HogbackRidgeShelter_zps20403833.jpg
According to my journal I stayed at the Hogback Ridge Shelter when I had thru-hiked, seeing it did not inspire any memories. A barbed-wire fence that ran parallel to a long portion of the trail did seem to look familiar though. I remembered walking along the fence as a light drizzle changed over to flurries and my journal seems to confirm this.

When Colin had returned from getting water we relaxed for a few minutes before it was time to get moving again. Colin would be heading north while I would retrace our steps back to Devil Fork Gap. We got a photo of the two of us together
Eric and Colin Part Ways photo SayingGoodbye_zpsf6d6a8fe.jpg
and then I watched as Colin headed north and continued on his great adventure.
Colin Walks Away photo ColinWalksAway_zpsb2ff2b24.jpg
In a way I was jealous of him and the great sense of freedom being on the trail inspires, but I live a life of responsibility now with a wife and daughter, both of whom I love so much.

After I watched Colin walk away, I made my way south. Since I was alone I didn't feel guilty about stopping to take photos and so I stopped several times to photograph the many wildflowers in bloom like bloodroot,
Bloodroot photo Bloodroot_zps0552e619.jpg
Yellow Violets photo YellowViolets_zpsac4e9624.jpg
trout lilies, Dutchman's breeches,
Dutchman's Breeches photo DutchmansBreeches_zps500c6832.jpg
and spring beauty.
Spring Beauty photo SpringBeauty_zps9b5c36e2.jpg
Despite the fact that I stopped quite often I made good time on the mostly downhill hike back to the car. I covered roughly 12.2 miles round-trip and enjoyed every second of this hike, especially the great company on the first half. Good luck Colin! I'm sure in about 4 months you'll be standing on top of Katahdin.

1 comment:

Sara B said...

So what hiking you like better...southwest or southeast? Hope all is well in the new job.