Devil Fork Gap to Nolichucky River – 32.6 miles

Day One: Thursday April 26, 2012
Devil Fork Gap to Hogback Ridge Shelter – 6.1 miles

Mr Breeze and his tarp waiting for me
Mr Breeze and his tarp waiting for me

My day actually started at 3:00 AM. I had to work from 4:00AM until 12:30PM. We had huge storms come through Knoxville and I knew it would too hot for rain pants if in fact it was raining while on my trip. So I bought a box of contractor bags and made a makeshift rain skirt. Well 12:30 came and I was on my way to Uncle Johnny’s in Erwin, TN where I would leave my car and get a shuttle to Devil Fork Gap. I arrived at Uncle Johnny’s and “Sarge” gave me a lift to the gap. And of course it was still raining. Actually it only started raining on the way there. So I rigged up my makeshift rain skirt and hit the trail.

Me in my makeshift rain skirt
Me in my makeshift rain skirt

I had plans to meet “Mr Breeze” about 4 miles up the trail.  I was pleasantly surprised to find him only .5 miles after starting. He had set up his tarp to get out of the rain.  After a short while we headed on up the trail. Not too long after we started we came across a waterfall. After the obligatory waterfall pictures we kept hiking. We ended up hiking 2 miles more than the plan. I know I was getting cranky because all we seemed to do was climb. And I hate climbing. And I was tired. We weren’t sure exactly where we were but the campsite we thought we would be camping out was not suitable for tarping so we kept going and going and going. We finally arrived at Hogback Ridge Shelter at close to 9:00. We got the tarp set up and basically collapsed. I offered a brownie for someone to go get water and McGruff happily obliged. I thought it was a fair trade. Somehow we managed not to eat anything after we collapsed. It would be fine for me but I was worried about him since he is the one out there long term.

 

Day Two: Friday April 27, 2012
Hogback Ridge Shelter to Bald Mountain Shelter – 10.1 miles
“Chutes and Ladders”

Mr Breeze on Big Bald
Mr Breeze on Big Bald

After having a great nights sleep and sleeping in a bit we got started around 10:00AM. The sun was out when we get started and stayed out all day.

As Firefox put in the register at Bald Mountain today was like playing Chutes and Ladders. It seemed like all we did was slide down the trail in all the mud or climb up the trail. I was really lucky in that I didn’t fall although I had a few close calls. Looking at the profile map I didn’t think the day would be that bad but I should have known better. The second day of backpacking is usually a tough day for me and I had a stomach ache to top it of. We still made pretty decent time. I am sure that Mr Breeze would have liked to have gone faster but he was nice and stuck with me.

Big Bald Shelter
Big Bald Shelter

We got to Sam’s Gap around noon and took a break. Miss Janet was there doing some shuttling. A bunch of hikers were going into town for a blue grass festival. But we kept hiking and hiking and hiking. We really had no idea where we were at. There weren’t any signs telling us we were at this gap or that gap. I thought for sure that we had  made it to Big Bald and it was just a joke or something with no views. But on I trudged and finally we made it to Big Bald.

Sunset at Big Bald Shelter
Sunset at Big Bald Shelter

After not to much longer we made it to Big Bald Shelter. It was a decent enough shelter. The trail crew had brought in a brand new picnic table earlier that day. I felt honored to put the first alcohol stove burn rings on the table. They had also done a lot of trail work that day. Thanks trail crew. It is much appreciated.

It was nice evening at the shelter. We actually slept in the shelter. There wasn’t any great spot to set up the tarp. And there was no on else staying in the shelter so we did. There were only 3 other people at the shelter. Jim and another couple. They had a fire going when we got there but my fire minion really got it going. It was a beautiful fire.

My wonderful fire minion at work
My wonderful fire minion at work

 

Since we didn’t eat the night before I made Mr Breeze some Ramen Pot Pie. It’s ramen, with instant potatoes, and chicken added. I usually add cheese to it but somehow that got left in the car along with my spoon. I think he also ate 1/2 a jar of peanut butter and jelly. I made me some ramen but only ate about 4 bites. It wasn’t appealing to me at all. I really need to work on my back country nutrition. No dinner the night before and not much tonight. Not a good thing, but I couldn’t force myself to choke it down.

 

Day Three: Saturday April 28, 2012
Bald Mountain Shelter to Nolichucky River – 16.4 miles
“The Never Ending Descent to Uncle Johnny’s”

Leaving Bald Mountain Shelter
Leaving Bald Mountain Shelter

Today would be my highest mileage day with a full pack. Awesomeness.

I woke up feeling really good. I didn’t feel like I slept that great but Mr Breeze claims I woke him up with my snoring. Just so you know, I don’t snore. As as I was looking at the profile for the day I mentioned that I may want to try for the river today, but I wouldn’t make any decisions until I got to the No Business Knob shelter which was about 10 miles away. Part of me really wanted to push myself and see if I could do it.

Just a rock on the trail
Just a rock on the trail

The day actually started out really dark and gloomy. I started out hiking in a long sleeve shirt and long johns. I was worried that it would rain and be nasty all day and my reputation would be ruined. I have been heavily blessed in my 6 years of backpacking of not having to deal with a whole lot of rain. I shouldn’t have worried at all. No sooner did we start up the short steep climb to Little Bald was I stripping off my clothes. And I have to say I don’t know why they call Little Bald a bald. I never saw anything that looked remotely like a bald. Just sayin’.

We made it to Spivey Gap and took a short break. I should also mention that we had seen no one on the trail. This is the height of thru hiker season and we saw no one. And I know I wasn’t hiking that fast. Anyways, we started the climb out of Spivey Gap and I felt it was much steeper than the profile led me to believe. But there were a lot of great water spots. I wish I would have taken the time to take my boots off and soak them. (in hindsight, had I done this my feet might not look like they do now)

No Business Knob Shelter
No Business Knob Shelter

We finally made it to No Business Knob shelter around 3:30 which is exactly the time that Mr Breeze said we would get there. The shelter wasn’t much to look at. And there was no picnic table, which is fine but it is sure is nice to have a table. But it looked like there would be great camping there. We sat in the shelter and ate some grub. Part of me just wanted to stay at the shelter and enjoy the night with Mr Breeze. The 2nd part of me wanted to push myself and see if I could do the 16 miles. Well the 2nd part won.

View of the Nolichucky River
View of the Nolichucky River

We left the shelter around 4:30 and headed out. He predicted we would get to the river around 7:30. We had nice walking for the next 3 or so miles and then the never ending downhill started. The last 2  1/2 miles I thought would never end. It was hot. I was tired. And the down hill was killing me. We had hiked so much downhill already today. I actually wanted to go uphill (gasp) just to work some different muscles.

But somehow we made it. And guess what time: Just before 7:30

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