Monday, July 20, 2015

Day 53: In the Mouth of a Dragon

April 29: I was on the trail hiking by 7:00--my earliest start time yet. Partly because I wasn't in a shelter and therefore not concerned about waking anyone else, but partly because I was on a ridgetop and got some of the first light of the day to get me moving.

The whole day, I had great views from the ridgetops, but the climbs up and down were tiring. There was also a severe lack of other thru-hikers on the trail--Blue Collar was the only person I saw the entire day.

A beautiful sunrise from camp. It got me up and hiking early!

My goal for the day was to get past Dragons Tooth--a rocky formation that I remembered from my first thru-hike and a section of trail that would be absolutely treacherous in wet weather, and rain was in the forecast the next day. I really wanted to get past it today when it was still sunny and dry.

I arrived late in the afternoon thinking nobody else was around, but as it turned out, there were day hikers all over the place! Where did they all come from?! No worries, though... They didn't really bother me. Mostly just a surprise to see so many people so late in the day when I thought nobody else was around.

Dragons Tooth is a rock pinnacle sticking high out of the ground and one can scramble to the top. I went ahead and did that mostly for bragging rights (I didn't do this on my first thru-hike), took a few photos, then got back down. Sunset was imminent and I needed to get going. I couldn't hike in the dark since I needed photos for Walking 4 Fun, so I had to get done for the day! At this point, I felt like I was in a race against the sun.

But that didn't mean I could hike fast. The trail down from Dragon's Tooth was steep and sheer. Some places were so severe, they drove metal rods into the rocks to make it easier for hikers to get up and down. So my speed was glacially slow and I kept wishing the rocks would go away.

I finally made it to Lost Spectacles Gap and the first level ground I could camp on since descending from Dragon's Tooth. Exhausted. Down in the gap, the sun had already set so I quickly set up camp. I cooked dinner, changed clothes, and made myself comfortable. I was too tired to set up my tarp and decided to cowboy camp. The weather forecast called for a chance of rain, but if that happened, I'd deal with it later.

The AT happens to intersect with the Eastern Continental Divide here. Just 1,920 miles to Mexico and 405 miles to the Atlantic Ocean! If I were a drop of a water, I'd have a tough time decided to which I'd prefer to go. =)

SNAKE! Snake on the trail!

At the top of this long climb, I found this bench. It looks like an ordinary bench, but it's not...

Nope, this bench was "Voted #1 Best Bench Ever" by Seat and Stool Magazine, and the New York Times called it an "Awesome bench." You can't beat that!

Audie Murphy--the most decorated veteran from WWII--died in a plane crash on this mountain so this monument was created in honor of him.

Have you ever seen so many butterflies cooperate in a single photo like this? Not for me... until today! =) But one of these butterflies seems to be dating out of his species...

Dragon's Tooth is not a feature you should climb if you're afraid of heights!

Yeah, I can totally climb that. Just don't slip! =)

The climb down from Dragons Tooth is so complicated, they added arrows to the white blazes. (You can see a second arrow in the background as well near the top of the photo.)

Other sections were so impossibly steep, they drove these metal rods into the rocks to help hikers get up and down them.


Karolina said...

And where is a picture of you on top of the Dragon Tooth?

Ryan said...

In my head. =) I didn't get one!

Eidolon said...

I feel you left a lot out of this post. Basically "I started at 7am and was trying to outrun darkness". For the longest hiking day so far, I want more paragraphs damn it!!! :)