OK, for those of you (and you know who you are) who have been prevented by Big Brother from accessing anything on the Facebook site from a work computer, here's a short trip report, with some of the pictures I posted on Facebook.
The plan was to leave on Friday. I worked half a day at work, then came home, feeling a little down. The sky was gun-metal grey, and storms were expected all weekend. The very air felt heavy and weighted down with moisture. I don't mind hiking in the rain (really, I don't!), but I didn't want to spend our fifth anniversary weekend getting soaked and carrying wet gear.
What to do, what to do? My ultralight pack cover was nowhere to be found. We still needed to get batteries. And oh, but I was in a foul mood. Tired and cranky and ... yes, sometimes it sucks being a girl. Sweet Hubster ("Sheltowee" on the trail) would not be discouraged, though. He is a happy fellow, despite my occasional moodiness, and when I said I wanted to wait until the next day to leave, he was fine with it.
So I went back to work, got my forty hours in for the week, and headed home again.
We had a good evening, actually. We made our camp dinners (we had, after all, packed them for Friday's night's dinners, after dehydrating all kinds of veggies to go in them) and watched the presidential debate. We got to bed relatively early, since we would be hiking the next day.
It was still grey and foreboding the next day, but we were not to be deterred. I was no longer tired and cranky. I was ready to hike! We drove out to the Standing Indian Campground and started out on the Kimsey Creek Trail. We started hiking just after 10:00.
It was a pleasant little hike along the creek--lots of mushrooms to photograph.
Soon we went uphill ... and up ... and up. Next thing we knew, we'd hiked for an hour or more and were on a ridge ... hmm ... Sheltowee said, "I've hiked the Kimsey Creek Trail before. This ain't the Kimsey Creek Trail."
We realized where we were--on some connector trail far from the Kimsey Creek Trail, and not very close to where the Kimsey Creek Trail was supposed to take us: Deep Gap, and the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). But, we could take our current trail to a road ... which would take us, after a two-mile roadwalk, to Deep Gap. Let's go.
Sheltowee and I were happy as could be. We were hiking, it wasn't raining, and we were celebrating five years of marriage to our Mr. and Mrs. Right, respectively. So we didn't let a little thing like a detour get in our way. We spotted a cool little spider on our road walk.
Our feet were hurting from the road walk by the time we finally reached Deep Gap. We entered the Nantahala National Forest and hiked up to Standing Indian. It was nothing like I remembered it when I was there on my thru-hike. Then again, most of my memory of the southern part of the trail is little more than a blur of cold and snow and ice.
Coming out of Standing Indian Shelter (where we had our lunch break), we met a couple of guys from the Nantahala Hiking Club doing trail maintenance. We helped them carry a big fallen log. It just about killed my back. Note to self: Don't pick up big fallen logs, no matter how guilty you feel for not helping with trail maintenance.
We stopped several times on the hike to consider how far we should go. Carter Gap Shelter was the logical stopping place, but ... that would make for a 14-mile hike. After sitting at desk-jobs for weeks and weeks. Even though Sheltowee had hiked 800 miles this spring, and even though I am running 20+ miles a week these days, we still didn't feel like we were in sufficient hiking shape to do 14 miles on our first day out. Especially considering it would make for a 14-mile hike the next day.
What the heck. We hiked all the way to Carter Gap Shelter and still had daylight to spare. "We are bad mamma jammas," I said triumphantly. Sheltowee agreed. Fourteen miles in just over 8 hours. Not bad for a couple of desk-jobbers on their first day out.
Here's the "anniversary suite."
The old Carter Gap Shelter is still there, but there's a new one, and it's pretty nice. There was only one mouse living there, and the worst it did was steal the two buckeyes we had picked up on the trail earlier that day.
The next day was beautiful. Pale blue sky, just a few puffy white clouds. We had coffee and breakfast and hit the trail at about a quarter after nine. It was an "in-the-zone" day for hiking. The trail was gentle and smooth, and there were mushrooms everywhere. We took lots of mushroom pictures.
We also caught a great view somewhere between Betty Creek Gap and the climb up Albert Mountain.
Sheltowee had nightmarish memories of Albert Mountain from when he thru-hiked the A.T. northbound in 1999. He wondered, would it still be the hateful climb it had been before?
Yes, he said, after we made the climb. It was still a mean old butt-kicking climb. ("Those wimpy northbounders," I thought to myself. "Complaining about a little old uphill jaunt like Albert.")
The views were fantastic. There were several others on the summit of Albert, including a threesome who had met the previous year while thru-hiking. We chatted with them awhile, then went up the fire tower and took more pictures.
Here's the Sheltowee and me, happily married for five years:
And we hiked on. Easy, easy trail. ("Those wimpy northbounders," I thought to myself. "Complaining about how hard the A.T. is in North Carolina. Heck, we southbounders didn't get this much smooth trail until Vermont!")
We reached Rock Gap Shelter around 3:30 or 4:00 Sunday afternoon. Sheltowee had to use the privy, so we hiked down to the shelter and Sheltowee made a beeline (heh, heh) for the privy. Meanwhile, I found the waterlogged, mouse-gnawed shelter register and tried to read a few faded entries before I gave up. I walked around to the front of the shelter and noticed a note the size of an index card pinned to the front of the shelter. It was dated 8/31/08.
"Do NOT use the privy," it read. "There is a giant wasp nest in there."
I thought for a moment, then reasoned, "The Nantahala Hiking Club is an active hiking club. They are good trail maintainers. I bet they've gotten rid of that wasp nest by now."
But ... then they would have taken the note down ... right?
"HUBBIE!" I yelled, running toward the privy. "HUBBIE, get--"
Hubbie ran out, yelling, swatting himself. I have never seen him looking so ... panicked. I was panicked, too. "Get out of there! I yelled, grabbing his pack. "Come on! Run!"
He stood there, swatting. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, he started to run back toward the shelter, cursing the whole way.
We flew up the side trail back to the A.T. Turns out Hubster got stung eight or ten times. (No, they didn't sting him on his butt, Mrs. Gwen.) I was scared he would suffer some sort of allergic reaction, but fortunately he didn't. Poor Sheltowee.
"Why didn't you run when you first came out of there?" I asked.
"I did run!"
Either he was in a sort of shock and couldn't think to run, or time was standing still for me and the "eternity" that he stood still, swatting, was really only a half-second. I think it was probably the latter.
On the two-mile walk back to the campground, we decided that this was one of those stories we would laugh about someday. Just not today. We were both happy that the stings hadn't swollen up and that they'd even ceased to hurt after a few minutes. My hubbie, he's a tough one.
We got back to the campground to complete what had become a 28.5-mile hike for the weekend. Our feet hurt, but we felt good. We were bad mamma jammas.
I think we're going hiking again next week.
Update: Sheltowee's evil attackers were white-faced, or bald-faced, hornets. (Attention, white-faced hornets: The evil intruder in your privy home was a white-faced, or bald-headed, Sheltowee. Har, har, har!)