Monday, April 20, 2015

Day 14: Lookout Towers!

March 21: The foggy, wet weather finally broke during the night and by morning, sunshine streamed down through the bare trees. My tarp was completely dry, my groundsheet dry, my sleeping bag dry. Everything was completely dry and I was in a great mood!
It was shaping up to be a beautiful morning! (That squarish thing in the foreground is the roof of the Silar Bald Shelter.)

Clifhanger, who slept in the shelter, confided to me that it was his worst night in the shelter because someone in it snored so badly. I hadn’t heard anything from my campsite so it probably wasn’t a sleep apnea thing and I thought, “You ain’t heard nothing!” But it made me that much happier I had decided to sleep outside of the shelter with my tarp rather than in the shelter.

Where the side trail to the shelter rejoined the AT, I climbed up a 0.2-mile spur trail to the top of Silar Bald where I had incredible 360 degree views. Fog still lingered at some of the lower elevations while mountains poked through like islands in a sea of clouds. It was a glorious sunrise!

The rest of the day’s hiking was relatively easy, peaking on two different mountaintops with lookout towers—and I climbed up both of them to admire the views. As the day progressed, the views weren’t as gorgeous. The fog at the lower elevations vanished leaving out the mystical quality that the fog provided. The views were still commanding, though—I could see all the way to Clingmans Dome in the Smokey Mountains (and also the highest point on the Appalachian Trail).
That’s Silar Bald up there! A mere 0.2 miles off trail, I figured the off-trail hike was worth the effort.

At a shelter late in the day, I arrived to see a fellow named English playing a…. I’m not sure what it is, actually. Kind of like a cross between a drum and a banjo. I hadn’t met him before, but he certainly seemed like quite a character. I also met a woman named Twiggy who arrived a short time after I did groaning about the weight of her pack. I don’t remember specifically the exact conversation that ensued, but somehow she ended up saying something about wanting to lighten her load, and I made some sort of bad joke about not having to worry about how much it weighed if she could get someone else to carry it. (Not that I was volunteering! Somewhere in the conversation, it had come up that someone had carried someone else’s pack at some point for some reason, but the details have faded from my head and I had failed to write it down.) She was thinking about staying at that shelter for the night and was digging into her food for something to eat when I noticed a heaping pile of flour tortillas. I was just about to hit the trail and said that I would help her lighten her load after all—that I’d be willing to eat one of her flour tortillas to help. =) So she gave me a tortilla, which I ate immediately making my stomach happy and her back was probably thinking, “Really? That’s it? That’s the best you can do to help me? Getting rid of one freakin’ tortilla?”

After 17.4 miles, my longest to date on the trail, I called it quits at Wesser Bald Shelter. In my journal, I noted that Clifhanger, Second Star, 5-Fingers and “several others” shared the shelter. (Not all of them were in the shelter, though—just the area in and around the shelter.) I’m not sure why I wrote “several others” like it was important information in my journal. Invariably, there are always “several others” around every shelter that I don’t write down by name unless something particularly interesting about them comes to mind, but for whatever reason, I did so today. So that’s my official account of today’s activities.

Steps today: 42,552 steps
Distance today: 17.4 miles
Total distance: 140.2 miles

The views from the top of Silar Bald were great! I especially liked how mountaintops like these poked through the clouds as if they were islands floating on the clouds. =)

Looking in the opposite direction on Silar Bald. This was the side I came up.

When I found this cairn, it was half the size it was in this photo. I felt like it had potential but wasn’t really tall enough to surprise or delight anyone, so I spent a few minutes doubling its height. =)

Lookout tower on Wayah Bald. On my first AT hike, this was cold, wet and rainy and provided no views. Things were much improved this time around!

View from the lookout tower.

I just knew when I walked up to this fellow (English) that he was going to be a character… I didn’t actually talk to him very long, though. Just a quick lunch break for me at the shelter and I moved on. He did not! But he played that instrument the entire time I was at the shelter and it was a delight to listen to. =)

Another thru-hiker was carrying this surprisingly large stuffed animal. I loved it! But I certainly wouldn’t lug around such a large, relatively heavy and useless object! =) (Apparently, it was a free gift he got when opening a Wells Fargo account. Which annoys me, because WHY DIDN’T I GET ONE when I opened a Wells Fargo account?!)

Trail magic on the trail! I was a little disappointed, though, that the cookies were already gone by the time I arrived. *big sigh*

Wesser Bald lookout tower

View from the Wesser Bald lookout tower.

Looking down from the Wesser Bald lookout tower. (See my colored pack next to the base of it by the staircase?)

My home for the night: the Wesser Bald Shelter.

This graffiti sounds more than a little ominous! I would take my chances, though… if I don’t post after this post, you know something bad happened to me! =)


Anonymous said...

I googled drum banjo and got bodhran, a drum.
Seems to be the same type of drum used in your photo
Happy trails
Grrly Girl

Anonymous said...

That was "Backpacker Banjo".
I guess the banjo players were jealous of the "backpacker guitars" that had been available....and did something about it.

Yak~King blues

Okie Dog said...

For the amount of stairs you had to climb on that Wesser tower, it sure seemed like a dud to see just brown hills. The looking down was more interesting, to me. lol

Honey Bear Clan said...

Wow, that picture of the mountain top islands is awesome!

Ubbi Dubbi Book Reviews said...

Ryan, this is the section of the trail we hiked when letterboxing years ago--the time I asked you about the steep trails! :)

StarSAELS said...

Nice view from Silar Bald!

Johannah said...

The bodhran is a whole different instrument - no strings.
It looks like he is playing a backpacker mandolin or bango.

CailĂ­n Rua