2/21/10, 6:00AM, Day 2: Sun up at 6AM. Oatmeal and coffee are the morning’s priorities. I break down my tent and fill up on water—not sure how long the creek will follow us up the mountain. By 7AM, Coop and Bigfoot wake and join me at the fire pit. Photo ops take up a few minutes after breakfast. Bigfoot tries out my poles out of curiosity. At 9AM it’s time to gear up. Coop and I part ways with Bigfoot and continue up the trail. Nice to be hiking on an actual trail. For the first hundred yards it’s hard-packed snow. After that, we’re off trail and following Bigfoot’s tracks from the previous day.
We’re going up. Each step is painful. Legs are getting pretty tired. Time for a break. Beef jerky and pine nuts go well with a compass and a map. Walkies share the NOAA forecast. Good news. Rain is set to move in on Monday. Today is all clear. Thirty minutes and we’re back on the trail. Voices in the distance precede four guys heading in our direction. First guy has pants and a T-shirt. Second is wearing shorts and long socks. Third and fourth are better equipped, but struggling to keep up with the group.
DUDE: You’re about an hour, hour and a half from the top. (Snickers) Don’t worry, we left a clean campsite and a nice fire pit, too.
COOP: Thanks man. You guys take it easy.
A quick exchange of nods and Coop and I move on. A million steps later we reach the top about 1PM. To the left, Flower Knob. To the right, Shining Rock Gap.
COOP: You wanna head to Flower Knob, or set up camp?
CHRIS: What do you think?
COOP: I’ve been to Flower Knob before. Lots of boulders. Given the conditions on the climb up here, Flower Knob’s gotta be pretty bad.
CHRIS: Camp it is.
We turn towards the gap.
HIKER: Howdy boys!
A creepy fella in jeans, denim shirt, a pair of Roos and his kid’s backpack approaches.
HIKER: Where’s the good place to get the good photo pictures?
We direct him down the ridgeline and away from us. Thirty yards later we survey the campsite. It’s a big clearing with two stomped out tent pads and a fire pit. Neither of us is ready to set up shop so we head over to Shining Rock Peak (35.3682°, -82.8624°). The guy is coming back at us and he appears to be lost.
HIKER: (to himself) There are black bugs everywhere! It’s winter! What are these bugs doing up here in the snow? Where’s the top of this mountain?
Coop and I exchange glances. The guy continues walking and turns just shy of the Shining Rock Peak Trail (SRP). As we walk we push through more rhododendrons on trails with 3 foot snow walls. The final climb to the peak leads us to a good lunch spot and a picturesque view of everything to the South of SRP.
A few more photos and we break out the stoves. Time for some mac-n-cheese with apple cobbler and a cup of snow melt coffee.
Back at camp we set up tents, and build another snowman.
The hikers we passed on the hike turned out to be a-holes; leaving a big pile of poop right in the middle of the campsite. There’s tree cover in every direction and they drop a bomb in the middle of town. Nasty.
Another hiker pops out of the woods wearing a Dora the Explorer backpack. <– not kidding. Looks like he’s headed towards the Dog Loser Knob trail. Scary dude. A quick wave and a nod keeps him moving. Nightfall comes, coyotes howl, and the stars came out in full force.
COOP: There’s Orion’s Belt. What’s that bright one?
COOP: I don’t know, maybe Mars.
CHRIS: There’s a satellite.
Dinner, cigars, and a quick review of tomorrow’s route. Up, over, down, and back to the car. McDonald’s here we come. Check the phone for the hourly forecast. Reception is hard to come by. Walking around I get a faint signal. One bar. I climb a tree and get four bars. Forecast calls for 37°F with rain showers all day Monday. Well, better than snow.
Back at the site I cook up stroganoff and Coop hydrates Tex-Mex. Dessert is another fine cigar. Couple hours later we review the morning hike back down the mountain. We should be able to follow the previous hikers’ tracks across the ridgeline and down to Big East Fork trailhead. We’re just hours from Big Macs.