Day 11 – March 18 2017 – 12.5 Miles – Muskrat Shelter to Carter Shelter
In the morning I woke to the sound of rain hitting my rain tarp. It was coming down pretty hard and I had no inclination to get out of my sleeping bag. I didnt hear any movement coming from Stoats direction, or any direction for that matter. It seemed like everyone collectively decided to sleep in and hope the rainstorm passed by.
The rain started to taper off slightly and Stoat and I decided is was time to get moving. The highlight of the day was to go over the first mountain on the AT that is over 5000ft. The name of the mountain is Standing Indian and we were hoping the rain would stop long enough to get a view at the top.
As we began to climb Standing Indian the rain petered out and we began to see a lot of evidence of the forest fire from the previous fall. Trees looked like charcoal and the groves of rhododendron looked ok from afar but when viewed up close were very burnt.
The AT skirts the actual summit of Standing Indian. To get to the true summit we would have to take a short side trail. At the intersection of the AT and the side trail was a makeshift memorial. It was dedicated to a man who had lost his life near that spot during the previous years forest fire. While standing there I started to look around. Everything was burnt. The poor guy was on the top of a mountain surrounded by fire. There was no escape. A lot of people go to the woods to find peace. I hope that guy found some before the end.
After spending a minute or two at the memorial we hiked up the side trail to see the view. There was a flat grassy area at the top of the mountain with a fairly good view of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
While we were standing there I noticed that the side trail kept going. The trail was faint and went through a burnt out grove of rhododendron. We decided to check it out.
The trail led us to a large flat boulder. When we climbed that boulder everything changed. That large flat boulder was actually the side of a cliff. Wind slammed into us, pushing us around at first. The view, although only a few hundred feet from the other view, felt completely different.
The clouds felt like they were just a few feet above our heads. The landscape was rugged and looked untouched by man. It felt like we were standing in a very old spot. A spot where the view hadn’t changed much in a thousand years. It had a very primal feel to it. I wanted to howl into the wind. I don’t know why I didn’t.
To think we would have missed having that experience if we didn’t take 5 minutes and explore a side trail.
On the way down the other side of Standing Indian my right knee started to hurt pretty badly. I guess it was my turn to have knee pain.
Five miles later we made it to Carter Gap, our home for the night. Carter gap had a lot burnt out trees. It was a little unsettling setting up amonst those trees. Who knows what would happen if strong winds came through during the night.
We saw Tyler from the Hiker Hostel. His brother had quit after only a few days and he was pretty bummed. I would devastated if my brother decided to quit.
A hiker named Big Ben made a fire and all the nearby hikers flocked to it. We saw a lot of new faces including a mother and her 14 year old son who called themselves ” The Snail Brethren”. Campfires naturally produce conversation between hikers and the main topic that night was our amazement of the fact that we would be crossing the 100 mile mark the next day.