March 2-4, 2007
While Bob and Darcy were doing their death defying plunge off of Looking Glass Rock, Scott and I were strolling around the headwaters of the Nantahala river interviewing this seasons crop of thru hikers.
We parked at the backcountry parking lot at Standing Indian campground and with a late start, we gently ascended Long Branch trail to the AT at Glassmine gap and then continued on to the top of Albert Mountain (5200′) and it’s fire tower. Along the way we interviewed the first 7 thru hikers we would see on this short trip. Wind was up but we had a protected site to sit and enjoy the sunset and dinner. In honor of Stewart and Nathan we ate dinner on the rocks and washed down our hot chocolate made with the dinner pot cleaning water. The views were incredible to the north and east of the Plott Balsams, the Black Balsams and the area where Bob and Darcy were. We waved to them.
The next day, with the wind still blowing strong, we ambled on around the AT past Big Butt, Little Ridge Pole, and finally up to the top of Standing Indian (5500′). Along the way we passed another 8 thru hikers and 16 section hikers with 2 dogs! We also passed thru the biggest stands of galax I have ever seen, acres of it!
The views on top of Standing Indian were even more amazing than Albert Mtn. except without the 360 degree aspect of the fire tower. From left to right you could see Brasstown Bald, Lake Chatuge, Shooting Creek Bald, the Fires Creek area with Pot Rock and Tusquitee Balds, Joyce Kilmer in the background, Wayah Bald, and way back the Smokies. We were going to reprise Stewarts and my 1988 pioneering camp on top of the mountain but decided we should get a few more miles in so the hike out to the car the next morning wouldn’t be too long.
We headed on down to the Standing Indian shelter and found 2 more thru hikers, Hatchet Jack and Kentucky Blue. We had a good long interogation that Bob would have been proud of. They have all been out 7-10 days and are just now beginning to have the suffering set in. Kentucky Blue had started with a 45 pound pack and had already dropped 7 pounds. This shelter is fairly new and they built it on a small rise. The wind howled all night shaking the whole structure and sending cold gusts up through the cracks in the floor. We woke up to 17 degrees and flurries with a dusting on the ground. It was the coldest any of the thru hikers had experienced. We fired down breakfast then charged out to the car. Deep Gap to Kimsey Creek trail and back to the car for an early drive back.
In all we saw 17 thru hikers, 16 section hikers and evidently just missed 200 army troops headed down the trail near Albert Mtn.! There was no wildlife to be seen for all the humans on the trail!