Friday morning Detail Man, Kim and myself met at Pardner's (also known for their outstanding BBQ) ate a BIG breakfast and then set out to run a car up Hwy 91 where we'd finish on the AT.
We loaded up in my car then headed to the trail head on FS road #87. We got on about 11:00. The 3 miles to the first overlook was pleasant eating blueberries along the way.
We enjoyed the view for a while before leaving the southern slope of the Mtn to wind Northward to intersect with Holston Mtn. Trail West. That's where we stopped and took off packs & boots and sat down for lunch.
Buddy hanging around!
Refreshed we headed towards the towers. But first found The Holston Hilton on the way! It's a tin structure erected years ago by hunters and is one ugly and scary sight! Obviously been used as a party spot in days gone past and full of bullet holes to boot! Just like a redneck to shoot up their own place!
At that point we were on a jeep trail that was a pretty consistent upgrade to the top where the TV towers are. And after that climb we all saw fit to rest in a nice grassy spot near the first tower. That's when we saw the sky turning darker and thought there might be a system rolling in. So we loaded up again and headed down the trail where it was lined with stinging nettle! Detail Man and I had shorts on so we had to stop and remedy that pretty quick by zipping on pant legs.
After passing all the towers and heading on into Low Gap I found the pipe where the best water source I knew of was. But Kim didn't like the idea of loading up on water and then looking for hanging spots. She encouraged us to go to the next one I had marked on my map from my scouting last Fall. Also I wasn't sure that the camping area at Low Gap up on the road had water or not. But I decided to chance it. We climbed the hill up to the camping area and found absolutely no water. After some debating and map studying we went back down the hill and continued on to the one on my map.
It was a very small, shallow spring and after finding it we found a place to set camp first then went back for water. It took a lot of effort to retrieve water with Kim's pump filter. But it was good she had one, a gravity filter would have taken a LONG LONG time if not imposable. After we got what we needed for the night we thought best to dig the spring out a bit so it could then settle to a clear pool overnight and Detail Man agreed to take care of that chore early because he said he gets up at first light.
The place we chose to hang was a dip in the ridge where it was open enough with plenty of trees to hang on and less steep than most everywhere else. But we found bear scat and it was a no brainer to hang the food! Supper was fixed in near darkness by that time but Kim had her usual tea light and that made it nice. I had chicken & stuffing and instant sweet potatoes and then a night cap before turning in.
The next morning DM confessed he had slept in later than he had in a long time....a clear indication of not enough hammock time!
We got on the trail again by 10:00 and headed out of Low Gap towards the Morrell Trail & Holston crossing. When we reached the road it was all down hill until we reached the gated road to the Fire Tower. It started out nice and flat and smooth but soon was a constant uphill grade to the top of the mountain. I saw the trail head on the left and the tower was looming ahead with Kim & Detail Man already there.
Detail Man was climbing up one flight of stairs when we heard thunder and thought it best to come back down. As soon as he got down the rain started. It looked like it might be a passing shower but NOOOOOO, it was a storm upon us and it came fast and furious!
Deploying our rain gear as fast as we could and diving for shelter on the trail in the woods we harried our pace to get off the top of the ridege. The 100' Fire Tower constructed in 1943 had a 12x12 live-in cab and at the base a privy and a shower that were removed after it ceased to be in use in 1991. It is at the highest point of the Mountain at 4136'. Not the best place to be in a lightning storm!
The wind was blowing the rain sideways so much rain was streaming down my legs into my boots. Also the most harrowing moment was when I saw DM and then Kim running back up the trail towards me screaming RUN! A very large tree was cracking and about to fall! We stood back and watched it lean, sway but never fell as long as we were standing there at least. We decided to take a wide birth to get around it. And on down the trail we went. Down, down, down until we finally reached Flint Mill Gap that was to be our home for the night. Just a short ways in on Flint Mill Trail is a spring and old cowboy camp. We found hanging spots & set up. It was good practice to first pitch my tarp while still wearing my Packa and pack. Then take it off under the tarp keeping everything else nice & dry. But by the time our shelters were erected it had quit raining making it pleasant to fix dinner.
After dinner having DM's homemade spaghetti and meat sauce, and then in comfortable camp shoes we walked out to the lookout. My favorite place. Kim and DM were both impressed and we stayed there in the sun and enjoyed it for a long while.
Then went back for Strawberry Rhubarb Pie from Detail Man's kitchen. Him and his wife Tweakie have perfected a way to have it on the trail as a freezer bag cooking treat! And let me tell ya, it was SOOOO good! The only thing missing was the ice cream.
The evening got cool enough for a jacket and I needed to dry out my socks and boot insoles. So I encouraged Detail Man to build a fire. I played with his DIY Bush Buddy and he built a small hand warming size fire. We dried out everything and then we all turned in for a great nights sleep. It being cooler than the night before I slept like the dead, waking refreshed in the morn.
After a hot breakfast of granola with almonds and cranberries and a couple cups of coffee it started getting dark again. We started packing up quickly before it got there and managed to get on the trail right as it started raining.
Sunday was tough...hiked in the pouring rain for 6 hours non stop.
I hiked my normal pace but Kim & Detail Man hiked faster than me to keep warm. I kept catching up with them though when they would stop to tweek their gear or take a breather.
When we got to Double Springs Shelter on the AT we FINALLY took a break and ate. But the best thing was, I made some hot coffee and it warmed me up inside & out. While we were there it cleared up, the sun came out, and we hiked the reamaining 3 miles back to the car in sunshine with the birds singing!
It ended on a high note and we all had a great time, did some serious gear testing in the rain (my packa kept me dry, and I see now that I need chaps) and now I've hiked the entire length of my mountain. I'm a happy camper.