Friday, May 28, 2010

Bootens Gap to Skyland

Before I get started with today’s adventure, let me just say that yesterday was nothing special.  We each had a few chores on our lists.  We had planned to work in a lot of resting, but somehow the chores took more time than anticipated which resulted in not much resting.  Oh well.

Trail passes Tanner Cemetery
We hurried out of the house early this morning.  We had a long hike planned as well as a long drive to the trail.  Thunderstorms were in the forecast for the afternoon, so we wanted to get as much hiking done as possible before the rains set in.  In my haste, I forgot to fix the cooler with cold drinks--something we have come to highly anticipate each afternoon.  Besides the cokes, I had bought candy to include in the cooler.  Really sorry I forgot that!

The trail passes the stables at Skyland

Gene dropped me off at the north end of the hike at the horse stables at Skyland.  He went back down to Bootens Gap where we finished on Wednesday.

View of Hawksbill
We had a long day (12.8 miles), but the hike was about the easiest we have had so far.  The terrain was gentle and the trail was in excellent condition. There were a few more rocks than we have been having, but those sections were short.

We had great views this morning.  There were several rock outcroppings which offered unobstructed views of Ida Valley and the surrounding mountains.  I stepped out at a few of these places, but since the view was the same each time, I went on without bothering to look every time.

View of Ida Valley

There were many hikers out today.  I saw more thru-hikers than on previous days and the weekend backpackers were out in full force.  Naturally, the holiday weekend has the vacationers out and I saw several family groups along the trail.  For the first time ever, I saw a young couple with their babies.  The husband was pushing the double stroller and the twins, who looked to be about 2 months old, were sleeping.  The stroller was wider than the trail.  I hope they got back to their car before the rains started.  And I hope they do a thorough tic check when they get home.

It was also an eventful day for wildlife.  On our drive to the trail, we saw the mom and 3 cubs.  They were crossing the road just south of Lewis Mountain Campground.  Had to have been the same little family we missed on Wednesday.  The bears are fast.  Again, I was not quick enough with my camera.  We both saw deer again today.  Gene says he saw 9 deer.  Gene also saw a turkey, groundhog, a couple chipmunks, a squirrel, and a raven.  As I went past Hawksbill, I watched for falcons, but didn’t see any.  In the late 1980s and early 1990s, peregrine falcons were released at Hawksbill in an effort to reintroduced these magnificent birds to the park.

I met Gene just as I arrived at the edge of Big Meadow campground.  We sat on a rock for our lunch.  Too bad I wasn’t just a couple minutes earlier, we could have had a picnic table for our lunch.

Waist high fern

The thunderstorms came as predicted shortly after one o’clock.  I was on my ascent of Hazeltop Mountain only about a mile and a half from the truck.  I stuffed the phone and camera in the dry bag and didn’t bother with the rain gear.  My chief concern was getting over the top of Hazeltop without being struck by lightning.  I hurried along as quickly as my tired legs would go.

After I picked Gene up at Skyland, we went to the Wayside at Big Meadow.  We got cokes and fries and talked with the thru-hikers who were in for burgers, beer, and blackberry shakes.  We made a quick tour of the campstore and gift shop before heading for home in the pouring down rain.

I think that about covers our hike for today.  We’ll be back at it again tomorrow.

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