Day 37. I thought yesterday’s waterfalls were impressive, but today’s put them both to shame. This morning provided a relatively flat hike along the river again, ending in grandiose fashion at the Laurel Fork Falls.
Describing the falls is difficult, as they were simply breathtaking to take in and rival any I’ve seen throughout the country. These falls, within the Pond Mountain Wilderness I traversed today, are an unrelenting rage of water, flowing incredulously fast down a gauntlet of rocky cliffs and chutes. A steep climb down about 1 mile of boulder scramble brought us to the falls that span 50 feet high by 50 wide. After a long break of lunch, and some rock climbing to get an epic view from the top as well, we reluctantly walked on. If it were warmer, there would have been some fantastic cliff jumping and swimming.
I hiked with Legs today, as well as a new friend met at the shelter named Ridge. My other hiking partner yesterday, Ripple, was slow getting out of bed and may have ended up taking a zero back at the shelter, as we never saw him today. So, it was just us 3 today instead.
The second half of the day was a long arduous 3 mile hike up and 3 mile hike down of an unnamed mountain. It steadily gained, then lost, 1500 feet of elevation so wasn’t too bad. We finished around 5pm which proved we very leisurely took our time throughout the day.
Part of that reason for our short day is because of what lies ahead. We stopped at the road intersection to Hampton, TN at the mouth of Watauga Lake. This marks the start of a 7 mile stretch where camping is forbidden since 2016. The black bear activity around this lake got so heavy in past years, they shut down the shelter and campsites on the lake perimeter to all hikers. The next legal camping spot is 5 miles beyond and the next shelter is 5 more after that. So instead of trekking through bear territory at night, we stopped.
There was another reward for the decision, besides patting ourselves on the back for good common sense. Boots Off Hostel is a few hundred feet from the trail here, and for $5 will take you into Hampton for fast food. So we did. We went straight to Subway and bought 2 footling subs each … one for now, one for lunch tomorrow.
You can obviously stay there too, but since we just stayed at a hostel 2 days ago, Legs and I agreed to camp at the campsite we passed just before the road intersection instead. This campsite was created due to the shelter closing, and required us to begrudgingly double back a couple hundred feet back up the trail.
I would have been very ok with this decision if it didn’t start raining as soon as we got here. I’d much rather a dry bed for the night, but I wasn’t about to run back down that hill again. Instead, I set up the tarp in the rain and hopped into my hammock for an early bedtime. The last 42 miles into Virginia are very easy, so I’m going to try to wake up early enough to go 24 miles tomorrow. Then it’s just an easy 18 more and a nice long Zero Day in Damascus to dry everything off and ease these weary feet.
Hello Neiman (Sharkbait!)
- Start to Mile: 413.2
- Start Time: 09:10
- End Mile: 427.7
- End Time: 17:05
- Miles Hiked: 14.5
- Miles to Go: 1763.2
- Lodging: Campsite above US 321