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May 9, 2004

So many updates, so little time..

Where to start ...

May 7378.9 mile slack (Dennis Cove Road1 to Hampton2)
3826.9 mile slack (Hampton to Low Gap3)
3914.8 mile slack (Low Gap into Damascus4)

Total from Dennis Cove Road to Damascus is 50.6 miles.

Flashback: Day 32

This was a 19 mile slack between Iron Mountain Gap5 and Erwin, TN. Ruth said it was a little rainy, but beautiful. She said this particular stretch of trail was what fairy-land must be like.

Flashback: Day 33 - double trouble - 11.9 miles+

They continued from Iron Mountain Gap (with full packs now), and begain the 11.9 miles to Roan High Knob Shelter6. It was cool and drizzly, and it got progressively colder and windier as they labored their way up Roan High Knob. They reach the summit - it's windy and freezing cold, the shelter is cold, everything is cold.

Now, when we saw our gang for Ruthie's wedding, they traded in their orginal tent for a tarp tent. The tarp tent is not so good with wind, and as it's extremely light-weight (and vented!), it doesn't do much to keep in the heat. So, Ruth decides that they should try getting down off the summit where it would be a little less windy.

Anywhere else on the trail, that idea would have worked. But they happened to be in Bald country. What? Bald? Yes, bald. They hiked the 1 mile down (heading north), crossed the gap, and headed up the next hill. Guess what - no trees there, just a broad open space with freezing wind howling in their faces.

The weather was getting worse, and it was getting late, and all they could see from the bald hilltop they were standing on was the bald crest of the next one7 - no help there. So, they (or, rather, Ruth) relented, and they trudged back up to the top of Roan High Knob, where they spent the night in the shelter.

Dad said that was "the most dangerous thing we've done." The danger of hypothermia was real; and there are more than a few stories of hypothermic hikers making bad decision after bad decision and winding up seriously hurt or worse. He said he was actually relieved when Ruth decided that they should stay in the shelter.

Flashback: Day 34 - 15.8 miles

They hiked 15.8 miles from Roan Mountain Shelter to where US19E crosses the trail in Elk Park, TN8. They stayed at General Wilder's Bed and Breakfast9, and had nothing but good things to say about it.

Ruth said the views from the bald mountains were fabulous. It was all rolling tablelands and beautiful weather. She said she kept expecting to see Julie Andrews pop over the next rise belting out, "The hills are alive... "

Flashback: Day 35 - slack 23.9+ miles

They slack-packed from the US19E/Elk Park crossing to Dennis Cove Road. Both Dad and Ruth said it was a mean day - long, long, and long. They said there were few markers on this stretch of trail, and few trail crossings. They stopped at the first shelter in this section10 to get water and met Hiking Bear, whom they joined for a snack.

Freshly nourished, our fabled hikers packed up their gear and headed uphill. Ruth quickly pulled ahead of Dad, and as he described it, it took until the sweat started running into his eyes for him to wonder what he'd done with his hat. He didn't know if Ruth had packed it (she was carrying the light slack-pack, as she is the faster hiker), and he couldn't see her to ask. So he kept walking.

Ruth will periodically stop and wait for him to catch up. When he did, he asked about his hat. Nope, no hat. So. Dad took the slack-pack, and continued his trudge uphill (which, I'll add, may be slow compared to Ruth, but would be a good clip for we laggards that are not hiking 6-8 hours a day). Ruth took on the onerous chore of trotting back down the mile of turf they'd already climbed to see if Oxymoron had left his hat in the shelter. He had.

In the interim, a dog had come to visit the shelter. Ruth said it was some kind of Beagle with really long ears that would get all wet when he tried to drink. (I think it was a he - I could be making that up, I don't remember). The dog was a nice companion/distraction for Ruth as she hiked that mile of trail a second time and caught up with Dad.

The dog had a collar with the owner's name on it, and was obviously well trained and used to the trail. Dad said he cut across a few switchbacks and the dog just looked at him - "you know, you aren't supposed to go that way" - and then proceeded to follow the trail. Ruth laughed about the dog always wanting to be in front - except that it wanted to be in front and go slow.

The dog walked all the way to Dennis Cove Road with them - a long hike for them, much less for him! Dad used his hiking pole as a leash, and made sure the tired pooch made it off the trail alright.

Laurel Fork Campground11, where they spent the next few nights (35-38), is almost spitting distance (a measley .5 mile) from the crossing. When they got their, they called the dog's owner, and she came to take him home. Poor tired puppy - Ruth said he was beat!

Flashback: Down day 36

Dad said both he and Ruth could tell that they needed this day off - especially after the long (and even longer for Ruth) hike the day before.

Laid Back Folk

Ruth said everyone in this area has been really laid back. Miss Janet's was a little crazy - but that was more because you might have 30 poeple at breakfast than anything else.

They've had no trouble finding rides, or getting anything that they needed. Elk Park and Roan Mountain were very nice - she really liked General Wilders. Ruth called the Laurel Fork Campground to see if they'd have rooms available, and they were nice enough to come and pick up their packs from the B&B so they could slack-pack what would otherwise have taken them two days.


A register entry from Dad and Ruth was quoted in Half Moon's trail journal.

They caught up with Joe Flamingo on the way to Damascus - he took a day or two to help install a privy!

They hope to be able to catch up with Homeboy one of these days. They saw milo in Damascus.

They also mentioned Poco & Critter, Skippy & Poppins, NightOwl(father) & Beezer(daughter) & Dillon (supporting brother - for slack-packing, etc)

Health/Weight Update

Dad now weighs around 205 lbs, his pack is down to around 30 lbs (38 with water).

Ruth finally lost her big toenail.


1 USFS50/Dennis Cove Road, TN. 409.2 miles.

2 US321/Hampton, TN, 418.1 miles.

3 US421/Low Gap, TN. 445.0 miles.

4 Damascus, VA. 459.8 miles.

5 NC226/Iron Mountain Gap, NC. 357.9 miles.

6 Roan High Knob Shelter. 369.8 miles. This shelter is at 6275 ft. The shelter before it is at 4400 ft., and the shelter after it is at 5050 ft.

7 The balds in question are called hump and little hump.

8 US19E/Elk Park, NC. 385.6 miles.

9 General Wilder's B&B

10 Moreland Gap Shelter

11 Laurel Creek/Fork Lodge

Posted by erin . Sunday, 9 May 2004 . 12:30 AM, MDT .