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I fell in love with this place last year and chose the opportunity of visiting with Gonzan and his entourage to return in 2012.
It's been fun hooking up with fellow backpacking enthusiasts this last year or so. I had missed a shot with Tipi Walter the week prior and didn’t want to miss this one too.
I had two nights to use this time and finagled my way to getting off work at 3:00PM last Friday so I could offset the 3 hour drive.
I was starting from Carvers Gap so as to meet Gonzan and Co on Grassy Ridge (a high elevation spur ridge/trail off of the Appalachian Trail.
The first climb was up to Round Bald.
Looking good Catawba!
Well to my surprise I ran in to Gonzan and part of his party while ascending towards Grassy Ridge! I’ll let him tell his tale if he chooses but at that moment he had been awake for 30 something hours. I fell in with them as we ambled on up towards 6000 feet.
I was running my mouth on our way up the mountain and embarrassingly didn’t see the turn up Grassy Ridge. There used to be a sign but it wasn’t there this time. As it happened we made the correct turn off the AT anyway, (shaking head and smiling).
One of the tasks for the day was to find the water source on top of the ridge. I had been told about it last year (after the fact) and also found a blurb on a geo-cache website about it but didn’t know for sure where it was.
I had found it! It was a good source but I didn’t like that rusty piece of metal.
After cooking dinner I sat around to visit with the crew while they settled in.
Well, the somewhat recent Trailspace thread about tarps really piqued my curiosity; I decided to bring a tarp and a 2mil plastic ground sheet as my only shelter this time.
This would be my first night tarp-only (always used a tent) as an adult backpacker up on the mountain. I went away from the group and found a little clearing in the middle of the blooming rhododendron to pitch my tarp.
Gear Note: The tarp is an Equinox Egret nylon (urethane coated) 6x8 basic rectangle tarp. It weighs 1 pound 2 ounces according to the manufacture’s website. I bought it on sale for $28 last spring to supplement my UL tent in wet weather.
Here was Gs little brother waiting on the adults to get set. He was a quite a pleasant young fellow.
This was the beginning of the sun setting as seen from the Grassy Ridge saddle camp where Gonzans crew setup (at about 6000 feet).
They were running late and still cooking in the dark. It was prime camp entertainment to watch Gonzan perform and direct dinner tasks by headlamp. Good stuff man! I really enjoyed meeting his Dad and brothers. Great folks all….
So this is interesting: One of the things I’ve read concerning tarps is their good ability to handle condensation. I had pitched this tarp about 8:30 PM (did not spread out the ground sheet at that time). I returned sometime after 10PM and it was completely soaked with condensation. Can see you the color change swaths where I involuntarily wiped it down with my head?
Here is another view to show how high I had pitched off the ground.
Editorial Note: the head end pole (farthest from the camera) was set at 125 cm and the foot at 120 cm.
OK, OK I’ll stop now. But look at the water beading up the next morning! Fascinating…
I had to grab a quick photo of the creative bear bagging performed the night before by Gonzan ( I assume) as I hiked by their camp before heading out for the day. Cool.
I sat and made breakfast on the rocks near their camp to see if anyone would stir (hoping to say goodbye). Eventually older brother came out and we talked for a few minutes before I shoved off.
This was the view looking back at Little Hump and Roan from Hump Mountain that I summated about 10:30 that morning. I lost 2100 feet and gained 1600 on the down and up route from Grassy Ridge to Hump over about 9 miles (from where I camped). A great route all in all.
I decided to backtrack on the AT and explore some side trails on my way to the Yellow Mountain Overlook. This photo was near Bradley Gap.
I explored this faint unmarked side trail in the Bradley Gap camps area. It led to the lower prominence of Little Hump.
Somewhere off trail….
I cut across this field near Little Hump and bush wacked a ways to get to the Yellow Mountain overlook trail (not an official trail---that’s just what I call it).
On the way out the YMOT I was eyeing all semi-flat spots as potential campsites. This one had my attention.
I had made it to the main overlook area about 12.5 miles into the day. I hung out for a while to rest and absorb some of the awesome views from this little known place. AT Thru-hikers won’t go this far off route (unless food is involved) and I suspect not many know about it.
I had considered camping out on the bald but the forecast called for rain so I decided to go find some woods for my second night under the tarp. This was my “storm pitch” with the foot end all the way to the ground. I actually had pitched the whole thing that way but it was just too short for comfort and I had to raise the head end. I chose that location because the ground was really soft there and seemed like it would drain well (trying to avoid pooling water).
Just a few steps from my camp spot was this fine overlook.
Here I was enjoying a special health food snack made by my friend KayB. It’s cocoa, dates, walnuts and water. No sugar. KayB didn’t like it but I thought it was excellent! I like bitter. Thanks Kay!
I spent the afternoon exploring the ridge. I day hiked out to the main overlook three or four times which was about a quarter mile away from camp and another half to the end of the main bald prominence.
Dinner time: three bean salad with spring mix on whole wheat flat bread. I really like food to be simple most times. Paper plates dispense pretty well from a pack.
Wow that peak is Grassy Ridge where I camped the night before with Gonzan. It looks like that storm cloud is making itself known over there..
These red mites were all over the rocks at my private overlook.
Here was the YMO trail on my way out the next morning. It didn’t rain on me that night at all. And somewhat surprisingly there was ZERO condensation on my tarp (even with the lower pitch). The vegetation is a factor maybe?
Check out those tents on the hillside above the Overmoutnain Shelter. Nice.
I stayed on the AT until I thought I was paralleling Grassy Ridge and decided to try and bush whack off-trail to the top just for fun. AS it turned it was only partially fun. By the time the briars became nearly impassable I was too invested and had to keep going! Lol
Eventually I came up between the Rhodo pictured here (turned around for this pic).
Cool pic of this Mountain Hardware tent. I bet he had a loud night in the wind.
I went back out Grassy’ for another look and lunch before it was time to go home.
I’ll end on this photo of some wild azalea I encountered on my way back to Carvers Gap. Ah…… what a great trip with great company!
Hope you enjoyed,