June 20th: Windy start, OD's slide, Earl Pt. 2...and the state of confusion.

Published: June 26th 2007EDIT THIS ENTRY

Rain and thunder continued throughout the night into early morning. Fog
shrouded the mountain like cloth draped over furniture in an old mansion. Water
dripped from the end of the leaves creating small puddles under their branches.
Wind swirled mist and the fresh smelling clean air through the open door of the
shelter as morning broke and we climbed out of our bags for chow.
Earl had slept on the second floor and I had heard him stirring about 30 minutes
before I got up. Not sure what he had for breakfast, but I did not hear any
stove. He was all packed up and ready to head out as CC and I were in the middle
of our oatmeal. He did not have rain pants, only a coat which he wore. We
suggested he put the hood up, but he said he didn't need it. Starting down the
trail he made it about 30' before returning and asking for help in pulling the
hood out of it's pocket. Seems the wind was stronger than anticipated. Off he
went as we finished up.
We left the shelter about 8:30AM and headed for the parking lot and water.
There used to be a grand hotel (Cloudland) on top of Roan Mtn. All that remains
are a few pictures and one old patio, that and the natural beauty of the Rhodies
and Azaleas. We took 15 minutes to get our drinking systems topped off and hit
the windy, foggy trail. We both had rain jackets and pants on to keep dry as we
walked through the wet woods.
By 10:30 the wind had cleared the clouds away and the sun was trying to dry
out the forest. The trail coming down the south side of Roan Mtn is quite steep
and strewn with stone outcroppings, making the descent tedious to say the least.
There was one stretch of real slick goo and CC had given me the warning to slow
down and be careful. Of course I listened to my wife like any red blooded
American husband. Not! I hit a patch of mud slicker than STP. I had planted my
second set of legs, my trekking poles, and my right heal shot forward so fast I
made some strange noise. CC hearing this turned just in time to see my left knee
make contact with the mud and a look on my face that said.... "Please would
somebody stop me before I split in half!" I was unhurt and by this time my
movement had slowed to a creep. CC busted up laughing so hard tears came to her
eyes! Good thing I had the camera or all of you would be looking at the picture
soon. This slip would create her much entertainment. Off and on throughout the day she would bust out laughing and give me one
of those looks.
Just before noon we met a NoBo hiker and enquired about Earl. He said that
he had seen Earl heading into the next shelter about a mile ahead of us, then
off he went. Not 10 minutes later we found Earl's rain coat hanging in the
bushes beside the trail, a bad sign! Racing as quick as we could, we headed for
the shelter in hopes we would not miss him. 15 minutes later we walked into the
shelter and there sat Earl shivering mildly. He was excited to see us and
thankful we had retrieved his coat. He said he had fallen a few times and the
jacket had been stowed on top of his backpack frame and had not noticed it
coming off. He had realized it was missing upon arrival at the shelter when he
wanted to try and warm up. He had intended to walk 15.2 miles with us to Cherry
Gap Shelter. Now he was saying he planned to stay there at Clyde Smith Shelter
the rest of the day. He had an extra days food and just needed to eat a bit more
and warm up some. CC and I were not comfortable with that idea, but also did not want to cut our day short and remain with Earl
ensuring he was OK.
There was a young man also at the shelter waiting on some friends who were all
headed north. He and I walked down to the water point talking about the trail
south. My map showed a hostel near Iron Mtn Gap. I figured if I could get Earl
that far he could spend a night there, get hot food in a large quantity and get
his cotton clothing clean and dry. The young man said there was a hostel only
two miles down the trail not shown on the map. He and his friends had spent the
night there and the food was fantastic. I encouraged him to put that bug in
Earl's ear when he got back to the shelter and I would work on him when I got
there. After refilling our water bags and walking up the hill to the shelter I
started asking about the food at the hostel. The more we talked the more Earl
listened and started asking questions about the menu. 20 minutes later Earl had
decided the hostel was where he needed to rest and recuperate. Were we ever
The trip to the jeep road down the mountain to the hostel was uneventful, we
shook hands and off he went to warm food and dry, clean cloths.
This part of the trail bounces between North Carolina and Tennessee. There are
remnants of an old fence that split the two. Walking you see small signs tacked
to trees with state sayings. I have been told more than once I was in a state of
confusion. For the first time I feel that way. Just when you think you
know where you are, up pops a sign saying you are in the other state. Looking at
the guide book it shows that the same condition exists on the NC - GA border for
some time distance.
The day that started out so damp, dreary and windy turned out to be a real
keeper. Wind shifted to easterly clearing the skies and warming things up nicely.
CC and I were able to dry out nicely and were looking forward to drying things
in our packs once we reached Cheery Gap Shelter. Walking into the shelter area
we could see there would be no drying. Tall spruces guarded the shelter shading
the entire area. A fellow was sitting in the shelter when we arrived. He
informed us the water supply was great and only 100 yards away. There were ample
semi-flat tent sites and even a rake in the shelter to give our site a final
grooming. Domestic chores were taken care of then supper was made. While eating,
two brothers and a sister walked in and also setup tents. After meal
conversations ran a large gamut of subjects that ran until darkness wrapped
around us. No rain tonight, a great end to a 15.2 mile day.
Beautiful day

Patrick, Deborah Mooney aka OD & CC
All Who Wander Are Not Lost


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