AT 2017: Day 20, Davenport Gap to Goundhog Creek Shelter

And get back truckin' on

As much as I enjoyed spending time with family and friends, eating good food and sleeping in a real bed, they weren't going to get me to Maine.

So early this morning Kim drove me back to Davenport Gap, the spot where she had picked me up just over a week ago.

DateSunday, April 30, 2017
WeatherPartly sunny, warm and breezy, with high near 80
Trail ConditionsDry, with a long climb up and over Snowbird Mountain
Today's Miles9.6
Trip Miles247.2

Returning to the trail at Davenport Gap turned out to be a good thing. The first couple miles were smooth and easy to hike.

I knew I would be hit with a long climb soon, but for now it was a nice place to get back into the hiking groove.

As I began walking I noticed right away some differences in the forest from when I was last there.

Instead of small, just-sprouted leaves on trees, there was a thick canopy overhead. Foliage was also beginning to crowd in on the footpath.

Pine trees were also enjoying the warmer, sunnier weather.

The whole forest was in a growth spurt.

New wildflowers were popping up everywhere. Purple Phacelia were some of the most noticeable.

As I continued on the trail and got closer to Interstate 40, I could hear the rumble of highway traffic, but that didn't detract from the scenery around me.

Before long, though, the path through nature had to yield to man-made pavement as the trail went over the Pigeon River.

The trail then took me under Interstate 40. By now I had traveled about 240 miles, but this was only the first interstate highway the trail crossed.

There will be many more to come in the next few months.

Once I got on the other side of the highway the trail ceased being an easy stroll. The serious business of climbing Snowbird Mountain was to begin, starting with a long section of stairs.

I noticed another plant that I had not seen before I took my break from the trail, but it was not a welcome sight. It was poison ivy

The trail continued a short distance before reaching a gravel road. Just a couple hundred yards up this road is Standing Bear Farm, a hiker hostel that offers accommodations in a bunkhouse and cabins. There are some interesting artistic touches added here and there to make the place a bit more than an ordinary rustic hiker retreat. Nonetheless, it's still pretty rustic.

There was no need for me to stop there today, but I've been there a couple times before when hiking up Snowbird Mountain. For a small fee the owners allow you to park your car there, which is safer than leaving it here at the trail junction.

Before pushing on up the mountain I stopped by the road to have a snack. I enjoyed some dried fruit sent to me by my older son, Logan, and his wife, Mor.

The trail up the mountain was now steep enough to remind me I had not been hiking for several days. The further I went, the more I was reminded.

Early on a hiker passed me heading in the opposite direction, but she wasn't carrying a pack. She told me she had gotten to the top of the mountain when she realized she had left her phone at Standing Bear Hostel.

Before long, she passed me again, now headed back to the top, and now with phone in hand.

I saw for the first time another sign that spring was in full course. It was Flame Azalea.

As I neared the top of Snowbird Mountain, which is 4,257-feet tall, I saw that the trees were still not fully leafed out at higher elevations..

Finally, I reached a clearing and the summit.

I have been here several times before, and I've often wondered how an first-time hiker without prior knowledge would react when seeing what appears just over the crest.

What the hiker sees is somewhat otherworldly, though it has a very practical purpose.

The structure is an aircraft navigation beacon, operated by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Because of the beacon, the mountaintop is kept clear. This makes for a 360-degree view of the surrounding mountains.

After enjoying the views it was time to move on. I only intended to hike 9.6 miles today, but I was already starting to feel the effects my eight-day layoff.

I was also noticing another change on the trail since I left. The temperature was much warmer today.

Getting to Groundhog Creek Shelter was taking me longer than expected. The heat and being out of shape were the main reasons, but it didn't help that there were several blowdowns to step around.

Then yet another thing happened that slowed me down. I began to feel a hot spot in my left foot. Than meant a blister could be forming.

The best way to care for a blister is to prevent it from forming in the first place. With that in mind, I found a spot to sit down and apply some Leukotape, a type of athletic tape.

While I was taking care of my foot a hiker walked up and introduced himself. He said his name was No Spoon and he was from Knoxville.

The remainder of the trail was smooth and downhill.

When I reached the shelter several hikers were already there. I met Austria, Brooklyn, Tin Man, Hillbilly, Spring Break, Fireproof and Glow Worm.

Hillbilly and Glow Worm are both section hikers. They only plan to go to Damascus, Va.

Hillbilly completed a thru-hike in 2014.

After Glow Worm gets off the trail she will be enrolling in law school.

As I prepared to go to bed I found one more change I will need to make as I get readjusted to the trail.

I was dehydrated and cramping. I will need to increase the amount of water I drink during the now warmer days. I may also need to add an electrolyte supplement to the water.

Sometimes the lights all shining on me
Other times I can barely see
Lately it occurs to me
What a long strange trip it's been

Truckin' I'm a going home
Whoa, whoa, baby, back where I belong
Back home, sit down and patch my bones
And get back truckin' on

From "Truckin'" by Robert Hunter, Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and Phil Lesh (Grateful Dead)

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