Sunday, May 19, 2013


Lily's birthday was last weekend. Jon and Luna hiked into town and we celebrated Lily's 31st b-day the way she wanted: good eats, board games, hiking to harvest ramps and paddling along the French Broad. Needless to say, I'm thrilled to have married such a girl.

Jon and Luna's ramblin' ways inspired me to get out for a counterclockwise rePEAL this weekend. Due to our attendance at MEC's graduation Friday evening, I started in the rain from the house a little before 7 AM on Saturday. Uwharrie looked a little too comfortable in her armchair, so I set out solo.

After a drenching rain for the first few hours, weather conditions improved to mostly overcast on the ascent up Black Mountain. I had been slogging my way in the mud past dozens of mountain bikers participating in the Pisgah 111K race. Just as I wondered if I might bump into him, I spotted Charlie racing by.

Water levels up along the South Mills
The vantage point from the suspension footbridge across the South Mills River hinted at what could  be expected from the multiple fords to come. I didn't like what I saw at 11 AM, but decided to take a break and not worry too much about it.

One thing I looked forward to testing out on this hike was ~20-minute elevated barefoot "power rests" every 4 hours. I admit to once overlooking Beyond Backpacking, but was thrilled to discover that the Transylvania County Public Library has a copy. It's been a welcome recent addition on the nightstand.

Squirrel Gap Trail
Pink Lady Slippers along Bradley Creek
The crossings turned out to be no problem and I soon found myself back in the mud along the 111K route. Upon arrival to Yellow Gap around 5 PM, I continued to coincidentally follow the route up Laurel Mountain. I leapfrogged a couple racers hiking their bikes up this relentless climb.

Painted Trillium on Laurel Mountain
Dinnertime on the trail
Past the Pisgah Inn around dinnertime, the showers resumed. I startled a bear cub along the trail, but didn't see an adult. I was thankful to get a chance to cook and eat my dinner of Bulgar wheat chili along the trail before the rain. Camp was both set up and broken down in the drizzle.

Saturday evening camp along the MST
Sunday Morning along the MST
After ~42 miles in 13 hours on Saturday, I faced another 38 miles on Sunday. Once again, it started out rainy, but temporarily cleared just in time for me to enjoy the views from the 6000+' balds. In addition to a plethora of wildflowers and songbirds, I spotted a coyote, a copperhead and hundreds of snails and newts along the trail. I ended up making it back to the house by 6 PM after 11.5 hours of hiking.

Azaleas in bloom along MST
East Fork
Ascending Tennent 
Descending Black Balsam


Steve Pero said...

These being a countdown to this #1, does that mean your journey begins soon?

Scott Brockmeier said...

Very cool that you mentoion Jardine's Beyond Backpacking! I've had the book for a while but have just started to give it a look these last caouple of months. Good, philosophical stuff! Thanks for the recount of the weekend, Matt. And good luck with the start of another big challenge. I hope you find it fulfilling!

Scott Brockmeier said...


mkirk said...

Steve, for better or worse, liftoff is T-minus one month (approximately).

Thanks Scott, still waiting for you to join me on a fastpacking adventure! Speaking of which, the Century to Roan Adventure Marathon (CRAM) is coming up:

Scott Brockmeier said...

hmmmm timing is not good. Flying back from MN on the 29th. Any chance of putting it off for a couple days?