28, 1983 Tuesday (1373.6 mtg) From
Gonzo!s Appalachian Trail journal
morning the trail leaves the Punchbowl in a general downhill direction
for about five miles with a few short climbs in between, notably
a half mile climb up Rice Mountain before continuing down to Pedlar
Dam, the reservoir for the city of Lynchburg, Virginia. The trail
passes below the Dam, and then climbs beside it allowing a decent
view of the lake below. For the next four miles the trail has ups
and downs, but little change in elevation as it makes its way to
Brown Mountain Creek Lean-to. Had the distance been right, this
shelter would have been an ideal place to stay. The shelter came
complete with two springs, an outhouse, and a great stream to cool
yourself off in just out front. If I remember correctly, this was
the place where there was a hollowed out spot in the stream that
produced a nice deep pool for swimming. A choice shelter, but not
located at the end of my day.
I began the big climb of the day from Brown Mountain Creek Lean-to
expecting to gain two thousand five hundred feet once again, but
this time in four and a half miles or so. The goal: Bald Knob summit.
The beginning was more gradual, and I may have stopped for lunch
at US 60, where the trail began a more vigorous climb. From there
for 2.8 miles the climb was more intense. Yesterdays' climb felt
tougher, although the profile on the map for today looked worse.
Perhaps stopping for a break part way up helped ease the pain, or
maybe I was just getting used to tough climbs. Bald Knob at this
time is a misnomer as the summit is wooded. No doubt it was a tough
climb. The mountain presented some problems for an aviator in the
past and the remnants of his plane could be seen strewn in an area
near the summit.
The trail dipped down to Cow Camp Gap before ascending again to
the bald summit of Cole Mountain. On Cole mountain there is a microwave
repeater station and of course a view. I took a few pictures,
but was distracted by the sweet smell of something growing nearby.
I put my pack down and wandered out into the surrounding field to
find numerous tiny wild strawberries growing in the sunshine. I
began to collect what I considered to be enough, while eating a
few in the process. Most were no larger than one's thumbnail, and
it took quite a while to get a pint into my empty Nalgene bottle.
I carefully stowed them in my pack for dessert later and moved on
in search of the turnoff to Whiggins Spring Shelter about a mile
and a half farther down the trail. Sixteen point six miles for the
day today, considerably less than yesterday. Maybe that was why
the day seemed somewhat tamer. Yesterday I finished the climb during
the last six miles of a 25 mile day, whereas today I was climbing
much earlier, and after fewer miles traveled.
Whiggins Spring Lean-to was located one half mile off of the trail.
The idea of having to cover this distance was not appealing to me
one bit, but upon arriving I discovered that the spring at the shelter
was excellent, which made up for the extra effort needed to get
there. Although I would have liked to have spent more time at the
strawberry fields, I am glad that I did not. Today was one of the
times that it payed to arrive at the shelter somewhat earlier. The
first reason for this is that soon after my arrival, the rain began
to come down. Second, the population grew to almost twenty-five
campers by nightfall, but only enough room for about eight to ten
in the shelter. Most of the crowd was from one group of Wilderness
Correctional Students and their counselors. They pitched tents in
the rain and made the best of it. Probably a good experience for
them. The other thru-hikers spending the evening were Curt Tracy,
Pat and Jody Perham. The latter two had arrived later during the
rain, and you could tell that Pat was really pissed off, not only
because of the rain, but she claimed that Jody had given her some
directions that had caused her to walk five miles out of her way!
Poor girl, she already skipped the tough climb yesterday. After
she calmed down, I talked her into making some pan bread for me.
I withheld the information of why I wanted her to do that, because
I did not want to share my berries! Although it was not exactly
like shortbread, it served well in a pinch as I poured the strawberries
in a heap over the bread and dug in. Great dessert to top off the
Appalachian Trail Journals ©1983