Day 74

Day 74 -May 20 2017 – 13.4 miles (plus 2.2 mile sidetrail) Bryant Ridge Shelter to Harrison Ground Springs

It was another hot and humid day and we had a lot of climbing to do.  Over 4000 feet and almost the same amount of descending.  There would be a steep climb followed by a short descent followed by a steep climb.  Repeat.

Once and a while we would even get a view.

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About seven and a half miles into the day we came to a 1.1mile side trail that led downhill to a 200 foot waterfall.  Zeus and Flashfire were already on their way down the trail.  We could hear them talking through the woods.  Stoat and I found a spot to hide our packs and walked the rest of the way down with a few snacks in our pockets.  The hike down to the waterfall was pleasant.  It was the weekend so there were a lot of day hikers out.  It was weird to see that many people out in the woods.  We were near the blue ridge parkway so I guess it’s something we would have to get used to.

We met up with Zeus and Flashfire at the base of the waterfall.  When they saw that we weren’t wearing our packs they let out a groan.  They had brought their packs all the way down with them and they weren’t looking forward to the hike back up.

The waterfall was nice but it really wasn’t worth the hike down.  The waterfalls were advertised as being 200 feet tall.  That was a little bit exaggeration.  While the water may have cascaded downward for 200 feet, the actual falls were only about 50 feet high.

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Apple Orchard Falls

After eating a snack at the falls we headed back up.   Once we got back on the AT the trail became overgrown with tall grass.  At first the grass felt good on my legs but soon it became very itchy.

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Stoat in the tall grass

Once we got out of the tall grass section, and after we checked for ticks, we came to Apple Orchard Mountain.  The highest point for the day.  There was a giant doppler radar installation off to the right and a nice view off to the left.

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View to the right
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View to the left

Soon we came to a sign that let us know that we were entering the Thunder Ridge Wilderness.  The last time we were on something that had thunder in the name was in the Smoky Mountains, in the middle of a thunder storm.  I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised at what happened later that day.

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Soon we came to the Guillotine, A popular rock feature on the trail.  We made it through and lived to tell the tale.

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The Guillotine

Not long after the Guilotine we came to a platform made out of stone that had a nice view.  Sometimes a man made structure can take away from the view.  That was not the case there.

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By the time we got to the Harrison Ground Spring campsite we were ready to stop for the day  The combination of the climbs and the heat and humidity took its toll.

The campsite was more primitive than most official campsites.  As I prefer it that way I was looking forward to staying there.  The signs that had been put up warning of recent bear activity in the area tempered my enthusiasm a little though.

True to its name, it had a very nice spring nearby.  Anytime we could get water directly from a spring was a special treat.  We mostly got our water from clear mountain streams, but there was something special about getting the water right from the source.

The weather had gotten worse as we were getting ready for bed.  The skies had clouded over, the temperature had dropped, it started to drizzle, and the wind had picked up.  It looked like we were in for a storm.

Zeus had been carrying the pinwheel that Flashfire gave him in Daleville.  He put it in a tree near his tent and it was spinning furiously.

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I’m pretty sure he took it down before he went to sleep.  I don’t think it would have survived over night.

Right after it got dark a storm came through.  The wind kicked up several notches and the wind began to howl.  We began to hear thunder off in the distance and I could tell it was getting closer.  Suddenly there was a  lightning strike that was so close that it sounded like the thunder occurred at the same time.  It might have been the loudest thunderclap I have ever heard.  Somehow, even through I was laying in my hammock, I levitated into the air from surprise and fright.  The lightning strike sounded like it came from the direction of the water source, less than a hundred feet away.

Thankfully there wasn’t any more close calls and I fell asleep to the sounds of a thunderstorm making its way through the forest.

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