Monday, July 25, 2011

Glassmine Gap to Winding Stair Gap

It's been hot and steamy with temperatures in the upper 90's, which is even hotter than normal for Georgia.  Sensible people might stay home in the air conditioning, but I was itching to backpack, and Still Waters said she'd go with me as long as we camped near water.  So, we figured out a backpacking trip with shorter miles than usual so we could take it easy- another section that we hadn't done along the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina from Glassmine Gap to Winding Stair Gap.  

Stopping to get gas in the blazing heat, I was apprehensive.  Many years ago, I got heat stroke and dehydration and ended up in the hospital with an IV, and have always been very cautious about hiking in the heat since then.  But at our trailhead at Rock Gap, NC, a comfortable breeze greeted us.  I was so relieved how cool it was up at this high elevation!  We were also starting out late in the afternoon to avoid the hottest part of the day, and only had 2.5 miles to get to camp near Glassmine Gap.

Hemlock and Still Waters

The mid-summer wildflowers were gorgeous along this section, and I was so excited to finally see the open flowers of wood's bunchflower (Veratrum woodii), a plant that's been a mystery to me for several years.  I'd seen the leaves for many years, but never know what it was because I'd never seen the flowers.  Now, I suspect it's because they flower during the hottest time of year when I'd always previously avoided hiking in the southeast-- usually by escaping to other parts of the country.

Wood's Bunchflower

From Glassmine Gap, we followed the Long Branch Trail about 0.2 miles down to a campsite in a small rhododendron-lined cove.   We dipped our toes in the icy stream and they grew cold after only a moment of soaking.  I slept soundly in my hammock listening to the sounds of the babbling stream filling the valley.

Along the Long Branch Trail
The next morning, we traced our route back to the car at Rock Gap.  I dunked my head under the spring at Rock Gap shelter, and then took off my shirt and drenched it in the water, before putting it back on.  This is my trick to staying very cool when it's warm.  Refreshed, I took more photos of the lovely flowers near the spring.

Turk's cap lily (Lilium superbum)

Bee balm (Monarda didyma)
At Rock Gap, we parted ways-- Still Waters headed out north on the AT 3.7 miles to Winding Stair Gap.  I hopped into the car and drove to Winding Stair Gap, where I left my car.  Then I set out for an out and back hike along the AT towards Rock Gap, passing Still Waters on the way, reaching Rock Gap, and then turning around and walking back to Winding Stair Gap again.  In this way, we both got to do the entire section, and I got to stretch my long-legs and get in the miles I'd been craving.

It was such a delightful surprise that it never felt too hot while hiking, even though I know it was dreadfully hot down in Atlanta.  It was wonderful to be up high in the cool North Carolina mountains, never too far from a cool stream or spring.

We hear thunder far off, but never got any rain.

1 comment:

  1. LOVE the photo of Still Waters behind the sign and the bee balm was what I was going after when I stepped in the yellow jacket nest....