Steeltrap Gap to Plumorchard Gap
Call Home Camp to Rainforest Camp
AT miles: 14.5
Total miles: 81.9
Elevation change: 4252ft gain, 4833ft loss
What the heck is that?
I was already awake and dozing when the squeeeeeeeee bird started doing its thing. Then there was another one. The drawn out squelching noises didn’t wake me up, but they sure kept me up. That was perfectly fine, however. I had just spent the last 12 hours in bed after all. Maybe it was time to try something else.
The sun was up and glowing by the time I squirmed out of bed. There were some clouds about, but the morning was already much warmer than the previous night. When I started hiking, I didn’t even consider keeping my puffy on.
I had the morning all to myself. Not another soul in sight or earshot. My knee and shin discomfort were both down from the previous day, an encouraging sign, and I kept my stride light and easy to reduce impact. This slowed me down a little, but I only needed to make 10 miles by 3pm. No rush here.
After some long traverses and gentle climbs, I actually stripped down to just my shirt for the first time on the AT so far. I felt exposed, yet fresh, even if I didn’t smell it. It was like that that I met the AT Trail Ambassador coming up the trail. He didn’t seem too impressed by my plan to hike 70 miles between resupplies to NOC, but he was friendly about it and dished out some good info on the Smokies. We both turned and stared when someone hiked by with a goat on a leash.
I showed up at Dick’s Creek Gap a little after noon and way ahead of schedule. That was fine by me. I like a long lunch. However, when I saw through the mountain laurel that someone had set up a trail magic extravaganza, I backtracked a little to a peaceful campsite that I had passed. I had a few hours to kill and wanted some of that time to myself. I stretched and gorged on all of my leftover food.
Then around 2pm, sweaty with either the caffeine sweats or nervous introvert sweats, maybe both, I hiked in my Crocs to the gap. The party was just packing up when I arrived. A group of four hikers were helping to disassemble tables and tossing their packs in a van, headed for the nearby hostel. I made light acquaintance, eagerly grabbing a banana, apple, and tangerine before they disappeared. So in just a few minutes, I was left alone again, to ponder the source of my hesitancy to mingle. Sorry, no revelations came of it.
Crunchberry’s wife, Carla, showed up right on time, bringing with her my resupply and some extra goodies. To my amazement, out came a paper bag weighed down with five(!) vegan burritos from Taco Bell, all for me. Sure, I was already full, but not too full for burritos. I ate two immediately. The rest wouldn’t last long. I was also surprised by a fresh pallet of Oreos to replenish my gallon Ziploc of crumbs and cream stains. SpiceRack’s doing, I guessed. However, perhaps the greatest treat of all was a chance to meet baby Crunch, 5-month old Felton. Looks just like his dad and could probably hike as fast.
The visit from Carla was actually a huge mental boost, one that I needed when I hefted my now fully-loaded pack. The new food would hopefully get me 70 miles to NOC, but with the extra burritos and leftovers, I have a suspicion that I’ll make it all the way to Fontana in 100 miles. Only one way to find out. After bidding farewell to Carla and Felton, I lumbered up the trail, which of course climbed all the way to camp.
Light rain began to dampen then leaves on the ground. It was warm so I didn’t bother layering up, but I did think hard about checking out the shelter at Plumorchard Gap, against my instincts to tent as much as possible. Instead I did pitch my tent among the green rhododendron and swirling mist. The warm, close dampness reminded me of the jungle. I managed to squeeze in one more burrito before calling it a night, loud smacking tree drops all around sounding like footsteps or bear snufflings.