Hey guys, finished up my first real outing with the hammock, so I thought I'd throw together a short report. Hope you enjoy!
I set out for Linville Gorge at 6 am on Thursday, driving from Boone. Got to the Rock Jock trailhead at around 7, just as the sun was coming up. What a view, and a great way to start! I took my time hiking, as the trail was pretty difficult and I was alone so I didn't want to take any chances. Plus, the views were great, which warranted lots of breaks to stop and enjoy. Stopped for lunch and a quick, restful hang at the Conley Cove campsite, then headed down the CC trail to get to the river. When I got down to the river, I saw a couple kayakers drying their gear by a fire, and I started looking forward to my own camp. Found a good spot at one of the campsites, set up the hammock and tarp, and got a fire going. I had forgotten how exhausting backpacking was, as it had been a while since my last trip. I ended up crawling in the hammock before the sun was all the way down, and had a great sleep.
The next morning came early, and I was up before the sun, sitting by the fire and drinking tea by the river. Not a bad start. Once it got light enough, I packed up and headed down the Linville Gorge Trail, towards Pinch-In. As expected, it was much easier than the previous day's hike, and I got the the Pinchin trailhead just after noon. I met a nice hiker who had just come down the trail with her dog, and she assured me that it "wasn't that bad".......right. I guess coming down the mountain is much easier than going up, who would've thought Feeling confident, I decided to knock out that 1.5 mile stretch and camp up top, near my car. After about 20 minutes I started rethinking my decision. I was quickly draining my water bottle, and I knew I could either turn around and fill up from the river, or get to my car. Exhausted, thirsty, and incapable of finding two trees fit for hanging in order to rest, I resolved to push onward. The sooner I got to my car, the sooner I could guzzle some of the water I had stashed away. It was without a doubt one of the most physically challenging things I've done, but the views from the barren slopes up top made it well worth it!
I've never been so happy to see my Subaru as when I finally got to the top. There she sat, covered in snow dust, just as I had left her the morning before. Rehydrated, I decided to drive up the road a bit to find a good spot to camp for my last night. And what a spot! I hung my hammock right on the edge of the slope, looking out at the Chimneys, positioned so that I would be able to watch the sunrise without leaving the sleeping bag. The wind had died down, so I left the tarp packed away and spent the night under the clouds. Woke up the next morning looking at a band of bright pink capping the eastern ridge of the Gorge, and laid there for about 30 minutes as the whole sky lit up into the most beautiful sunrise I've ever seen. Overall, a great trip, made even better by the fact that I got to sleep in hammock bliss!