Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Day 63: To blue-blaze, or not to blue-blaze....

May 9: The day was beautiful, warm and sunny! Bugs were still bad, but the air didn't seem quite as thick with them as the day before. The heat didn't seem as oppressive either, but my gut feeling was that the temperatures were just as high--just the humidity was lower.

My big decision today was whether or not to take the Mau-Har Trail or the Appalachian Trail. Most of the time, obviously, I'm following the Appalachian Trail, but for those of you who missed it, this was my second time around. Doing the same trail can be tedious at times, but occasionally, there are small trails that loop off the Appalachian Trail then reconnect with it again further up. Typically they have blue blazes and thus the term "blue-blazing." Usually the term is used in a derogatory sense because most of the time, thru-hikers will use them as shortcuts.

In this case, the Mau-Har Trail was about 4 miles long and it would cut out about 7 miles of Appalachian Trail. It is a shortcut, but for me, it's not about shortcuts. Lord knows walking off trail to nearly every single shelter and viewpoint has added countless miles to my trek and I'll likely have hundreds of extra off-trail miles under my belt by the end of the hike. No, the reason I was drawn to this trail was because I heard it was filled with waterfalls. The Appalachian Trail, on the other hand, boasted of spectacular views along the stretch I'd be missing.

So I was torn. Did I want to see new waterfalls I'd never seen before, or scenic views that I had seen once before already? On the AT, waterfalls seem like a much more rare commodity than viewpoints so I'd rather see waterfalls.

But... it comes back down to the fact that it's blue-blazed. A lot of hikers will take every shortcut they can giving blue-blazers a bad name, but they'll be defensive about taking blue blazes and try to justify why they did so claiming about every excuse in the book except that it was shorter. I remembered a hiker telling me during my first thru-hike--one who had followed the blue blaze--that the trail was really hard and filled with great waterfalls, but I always wondered if he wasn't playing up the toughness of the trail or the waterfalls as an excuse for his blue-blazing.

So I was torn. I really wanted to see waterfalls, but I wasn't entirely certain my source of information was reliable. I almost wished it was a foggy, rainy day invalidating the views from the AT. My choice would have been easy then.

I thought about the decision all morning as I walked along, and even when I finally reached the junction of the two trails, I set down my pack and took a break. I still didn't know which direction I wanted to go.

Forrest, taking a photo of the view.

I mentally tallied a list of pros and cons for each route. People using Walking 4 Fun would probably prefer my staying true to the AT. Nobody would call me a blue-blazer if I followed the AT, but frankly, who cared? I'd already done the AT once before (and the PCT, and the Florida Trail, and the Arizona Trail), and I have a very strong sense that I have absolutely nothing to prove to anyone!

But I am re-hiking this trail specifically for Walking 4 Fun, so it made sense that I should think about what those users would prefer to see, and I figured they'd probably prefer to stay on the Appalachian Trail, and that's what I ended up doing.

During the long slog up the mountain, I met some day hikers who were making a loop out of their hike following the Mau-Har trail out then the Appalachian Trail back to their car, so I asked them about the Mau-Har trail--not that I had any intention at this point of backtracking if the reports were good. They did tell me that there were waterfalls. Not huge ones, but definite waterfalls. More interestingly, though, they described the trail as being far more difficult and steep than the one we were currently climbing. By their accounts, we were on the "easy" trail!

In the end, I think I made the right choice for Walking 4 Fun. On a personal level, however, I think I'd have preferred seeing the new terrain.

Late in the day, at the Maupin Field Shelter, another hiker signed the register "Forest." He had a big, bushy beard--among one of the biggest I've ever seen on a thru-hiker--and I didn't think twice about his trailname until he said he was named after Forrest Gump. Then the rest of us hikers told him that he'd been signing his name incorrectly--it should have been Forrest with two R's. He looked at his register entry and quickly fixed it... by adding "Forrest in the" before the name he had first signed so it now read "Forrest in the Forest." We got a kick out of that, but mostly we were amused that he didn't know how to spell his own trailname. That might have been a first on the trail! Although it was an understandable mistake--it's certainly pronounced the same as "forest."

Near dusk, I set up camp on a small rocky patch just off the trail about a mile past the Three Ridges Overlook of the Blue Ridge Parkway (MM 13.1). About a half hour later, Tortoise and Hare joined me and we chatted until dark.

That was it! Nothing else happened today! =)

That's my shadow down there as I crossed the bridge!

Another typical shelter along the trail. That's Bullet on the left. I forget who was sitting at the table, and with his back turned to me, I can't even recognize him!

Staying on the AT provided some great views along the way!

Another awesome view from Chimney Rock!

These guys were EVERYWHERE!!!!

The Blue Ridge Parkway

1 comment:

Okie Dog said...

Is that Big Foot the seventh picture from the bottom? He is standing on the right hand side. Hahaha!