Landon and I hike out of the gap and aim for the Bob but we have to travel thru a little bit of snow.
JOURNAL TRIP 55
MORNING AT NAKED GROUND: The black night sky is full of stars and a brisk wind blows across the ridge and thru the surrounding treetops of Wacipi Gap. Today promises to be at least a sunny one thru some of it. It is cold though not really, I just got out of a hot sleeping bag to go outside and so I'm a bit overheated and now chilled. The lit candle brings some heat, solace and companionship on this lonely solitary night. The 2 dogs sit curled up, Shunka on his leash and Landon by the back of the tent. I don't know what I'll do today trekwise but my options are to stay put, go to the Hangover and Saddle Tree or return to Raven Camp, the Bob. That's about it. I'm just glad to be inside a warm and cozy tent that can certainly take the wind and even block a bit of it.
It feels good to be on a winter backpacking trip with everything I need to stay comfortable and although conditions could change and dump more snow I believe even with the 3 season boots I have I can get from point A to point B without undue difficulty. I brought a photo of James W., the unfortunate Cranbrook leader who lost so much here in the Blizzard of '93, as a reminder of what can happen in the cold and snow of a late winter storm. Feet get cold quickly and require effort to keep them from freezing but in his case it was his efforts to protect and extricate his students which I believe led to his problems. It just makes me wonder what the other leaders in his group did. Did they take off or did they not ferry the kids across the snow choked North Fork Creek like the Cranbrook School leader did? I might never know.
My obvious guess is that James forded the North Fork many times trying to get his people out and soaked his boots and feet in the ice water so many times that they were blocks of ice by the time of rescue. Who called in the chopper? How long after the snow did it take to reach them? Has someone written an account of this? I guess I could start with Knox News.com and email Greg M., another leader. All this comes later, let me return to my bag.
BASECAMPING AT NAKED GROUND: Daylight comes and morning brings tooth brushing and the feeding of the dogs, even Landon got 3 or 4 milkbones. Let's cook a breakfast of oats for myself. Ok, breakfast is over and so I must walk down to the spring and clean the pot. Let's go!
I'm back to square camp away for a stay with my wet and frozen boots sitting in the sunlight thawing and my tent and bag airing out for another night on the high lonesome. It's a beautiful day to be out at 4,840 feet. The weather report calls for mostly sun thru Sunday and so my trip to Raven Camp will be on schedule for tomorrow's hike. I haven't seen anyone in 5 days but as I look from the view I wonder who's walking the AT just across the valley. I can see it clearly but as always I'm vexed about the location of Wesser Bald. I keep looking for the firetower but without binocs I can't see it but I see Cheoah which should be enough, I guess.
At 12 noon a dayhiker from D.C. climbed up the Little Santee trail from Rattler Ford and stopped to talk before climbing to the Bob for a view. His name is Sanders and his Dad's a professor at ASU in Boone. He's hiked alot of places, the Skyline AT trail, some trails in the Smokies, Mt Mitchell, and is headed to Shining Rock wilderness on his way back. A good sort. Now if I could just remember his first name. Pip? Kip? Nip?
The weather has warmed up a bunch and it is perfect backpacking conditions though there is still some deep snow up top and I'm sure Sanders will hit it soon enough. Without a pack it's a skip and a jump but it's still work. What's for lunch? Rice cakes and goat cheese, thank you. Ok, Day 5 is coming to an end and it's been a very slow day, the only high point was walking to Watauga Camp to stash a spoon and some tent pegs and the meeting up with Mr Sanders who never returned so he must've done the Horse Cove loop back town to the Kilmer Kamps. I gathered every last little bit of trash I could find here and in the process I found not just one pile of human feces with soiled paper but 3. Here on out this will be known as S*** Gap.
It is later and with it comes a big wind blowing all around me but not exactly right at me as I'm protected in this gap by the brush and by the higher ground to both sides of my camp. You'd think a gap would get hit worse than the bald but not at this one and for that I am thankful. It's a dry blow too cuz everything is tight and, well, dry. My bag is fluffed up and amazingly lofted. I wonder if I should go out and secure the umbrella sheet or stake out the remaining 4 guylines? My tent ain't moving much so I'll let it go.
If I hear the pitter of rain I'll be one busy dynamo for a moment or two. The wind must be blowing in some kind of change, maybe cold or rain, who knows? I'm glad no one came up today as they would've done everything in their power to have a big bonfire going with ashes blowing everywhere. The big question for me is whether I wanna go up to Raven Camp as planned or find a more protected spot some place else. I could always set up on the South Col or below the top at the Akto Camp, both somewhat protected from the worst of it. I could even go down the South Lead to Elysium Fields and find less snow and some protection though the initial descent might prove snowy and hard to get thru. Another thought is to go back over the bald and pass Snow Camp to Lakota Gap where I could set up and be by water, too. It would break up my hike to Crowders on the Benton MacKaye trail.
four mile ridgedogs