Thursday, August 1, 2013

Little Hump/Big Hump

Little Hump
On Monday, July 29th Amy and I woke up with the familiar pre-hike anticipation feeling. Although we were very excited to do the Little Hump/Big Hump hike, we each had a couple cups of coffee on the outside deck, taking our time to see if the morning weariness and soreness from yesterday’s hike would wear off.

We finally got all of our stuff packed up and headed off for the next adventure, sometime around 10 am. It was about a 2 hour drive to the far western part of North Carolina, in the same vicinity as Roan Mountain where we did the Round, Jane, and Grassy Ridge hike. Once again, the drive took us on numerous windy mountain roads past tons of Christmas tree farms, small mountain communities, and many, many churches. The last segment of the drive took us 5 miles up Roaring Creek Road, a seemingly isolated mountain community-I was amazed and relieved when we finally came to the trailhead at the end of the road. Part of me had been almost sure that we were lost in the middle of the Apps without any connections.

It was 12:45 pm when we began the hike-a later start than we would’ve liked, but we couldn’t complain. It was a sunny day and there was not a single cloud in the sky, which was especially amazing considering that this month of July had already blown away Boone’s all-time-history record for inches of rainfall.

Equipped with two backpacks worth of hiking supplies, we started up the trail in earnest. In less than half of a mile we came upon two open fields glimmering in the sunlight. I was already really liking this hike.

We followed the trail (which was really an old roadbed) through the second meadow and then up the side of a mountain. After we had climbed about half a mile, we came to an even bigger meadow. This meadow was even more spectacular than the last. It was thriving with wildflowers, butterflies, and grasshoppers. Its most defining feature, however, was the view. There was an incredible view of a bald up to the left (which we later found out was Big Yellow Mountain) and a beautiful, picturesque landscape of blue mountain peaks straight ahead.
What we would've missed if we had gone the right way

We continued through the meadow and up the mountain on the other side. It felt like we were heading towards the bald on top of Big Yellow. We hadn’t stopped climbing since the first meadow and something didn’t seem right. Amy and I looked back at the hiking descriptions we had brought with us and confirmed our fears: we were going the wrong way. According to the directions we were supposed to have made a 180-degrees turn into the first meadow. As we headed back down the mountain, I did the math and found that by the time we would get back onto the right trail, our legs will have added 1.4 miles to the trip. This wasn’t too bad, I thought, but now time was going to be a factor. On the bright side, though, we were able to experience a beautiful meadow that we would have otherwise never seen.

Yellow Gap junction
Soon after getting back on track, our trail led us to Yellow Gap, the junction where we would get onto the Appalachian Trail. We sat down for a quick lunch before beginning the climb up to Little Hump.
Despite being one of the most steep and difficult sections of the hike, the first mile on the A.T. was absolutely stunning. On the right, there was a lush grassy meadow blanketing the entire mountainside, and beyond, there were unperturbed views of endless ranges and peaks.  We could look down and see an old red barn that had been converted into A.T. shelter. Also, behind us to the west we could see the grassy caps of Round, Jane, and Grassy Ridge.

The barn is visible down below
Due to time constraints, we weren’t going to be able to make it all the way to Big Hump. It was already 4 pm and it would take us a couple hours to get back to the car. Amy and I had to come up with a plan. We ended up deciding that I would continue on to Little Hump (which wasn’t far from here), spend some time there, and meet Amy back at this meadow by 6 pm. Our priority was to get off the trail before dark, so we knew for sure we couldn’t make it to Big Hump. Furthermore, Amy had already been to Little Hump before, so she reasoned that she could sit in this meadow and work on some writings for the book while I went to Little Hump.

I continued on the same trail out of the open field and into a shaded forest. There were two species of flowers in this section that dominated my attention: the Turks Cap Lily and the Bee Balm, both of which resemble different types of headwear- the former of a turban, and the latter of a jest’s hat.
Turks Cap Lily
Bee Balm

When I finally came out onto the bald of Little Hump, all of my previous emotions from the day subsided and made way for an all-powerful sense of joy. In less than 10 feet, I had stepped out of a forest canopy and onto the top of the world. I couldn’t help but do a couple of heel-clicks and let out some shouts of joy, keeping in mind that I had this place to myself.
Walking out onto Little Hump
I ran up to the summit on adrenaline, my body willing me to get to the best spot on the entire mountain. Up top, I was awestruck at the views. This had to be my favorite bald yet, I thought. I could literally see everywhere for miles. I took tons pictures and videos, but they didn’t even come close to capturing the actual majesty.

I sat down on a boulder and thought philosophically about life for a little bit before heading back. It was hard to leave this place, but I had already decided that I was coming back next weekend. I already had a good excuse too-to visit Big Hump.

Amy and I made it back to the car before 7 pm without a problem. It was a day full of many ups and a few downs, but overall it was very satisfying for both of us. On the way back to the mountain house, we stopped for dinner at the Five Guys in Boone. Amy had told me she had never been to a Five Guys, so I knew it was my responsibility to introduce her. It was much better than the two-story Wendy’s in Boone that all the resort-goers talk about, I thought.

While this was our last planned summer hiking trip, Amy and I still have a couple more balds that we are trying to do around the Asheville area. We will probably take a weekend in September or October to do these, and I’ll post about the experiences on here when the time comes!

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