Fine views and some open hill walking ending with a B&B and a barbecue pork sandwich. A good day.
Since I thought I only had a relatively easy 11.8 miles to do today and because last night was a late one I set the alarm for 7:30 and left camp just after Happy Trails at 8:30. My ankle had tested as ‘not too bad, considering’ so I was pretty happy. Not being worse after the craziness of yesterday was basically an improvement.
At the Stan Murray shelter 0.6m later I found a groggy looking Cruise still waking up who must have missed our tenting spot and come an extra 0.6m more than he had to. Clearly everyone found yesterday stretched out longer than they anticipated.
Only a few miles later the trail branches off 0.3m to Overmountain Shelter, a converted barn considered to have one of the best views of any shelter, down a green valley. I didn’t fancy a 0.6m round trip so carried on walking up the valley side until I got an excellent view myself of both the valley and the shelter.
I really enjoyed this bracing walk up. With high winds and overcast skies (patches of sun shining through at intervals though) it was just like hill-walking back in the UK.
Then things got a bit odd. I only had 4.9 miles left to complete the day and it was about 11am. I had done 6.6m in 2.5 hours and that was all the significant uphill for the day. I calculated I would be through by 1pm or 1:30pm at the latest, almost too early. I set off in high spirits.
Soon I passed 3 thrus having a break with a gorgeous view to enjoy. “Are you Sparky?” the girl enquired. Upon confirming it was indeed so, they asked about my ankle and sympathised. I had never seen them before. Such is the trail community.
After what was definitely more than the 2.4 miles listed in AWOL I came to the sign that declares you are finally done with North Carolina. We have been straddling the border with Tennessee for about 200 miles in no mans land so it is good to officially say goodbye. No idea why the sign is adorned with a sheep’s skull.
Now the guidebook said there was 2.5 miles to my exit point. That was a lie. It took me until 3pm to get to mile 391.8. Even with a bad ankle and difficult boulder-y terrain it doesn’t take 4 hours to do 4.9 miles downhill. Some new trail route must have been opened without telling AWOL because that descent took forever.
Towards the end I consulted my GPS-based Guthook app wondering what the heck was going on and found it was claiming another 0.6m had been walked by the time I hit the road. Felt more like 1.6. After 5 weeks of continuous walking you develop a pretty fine-tuned sense for time and distance. I can often get my next section estimated to within 10 minutes. To be 90 minutes out means, to me, there some hidden miles in there somewhere. The same happened yesterday, I forgot to say, due to a new route up Roan only completed this week. It probably added 0.5m or so but it’s brand new so no worries. Today was just annoying.
Anyway, I walked along the main road for 0.3m west to Mountain Harbor B&B and Hostel and asked if they add a private room available. They did but it was the big room with a big bed and a big shower and a big jacuzzi bath. Oh dear, what a shame. And complementary home-made caramel bread and blueberry muffins for me? And an ice pack for my ankle? Well, if you insist.
At 5pm they shuttle guests into ‘town’ (Roan Mountain) and I got to resupply and have a barbecue pork sandwich for dinner.