Monday, May 4, 2015

Lovers Leap

Miles: 4.5 loop trail (Moderate)
Elevation Gain/Loss: 1,068 ft.

“This is the most beautiful place on Earth. There are many such places. Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, the right place, the one true home, known or unknown, actual or visionary.” --Edward Abbey

The clouds hang heavy in the sky like cotton balls soaked in oil.The air is cool and damp against my skin, and a slight breeze makes the tiny hairs of my arms stand at attention as if on the lookout for something unknown to me is about to happen. We step across the pavement and over a small wooden bridge. I am wrapped up in a lush blanket of green, and the river is rushing by me. With each step the smell of damp organic matter saturates my senses as it squishes beneath my feet. I am in the Appalachian mountains, walking along the Appalachian Trail. I am home.

To be more exact, I'm in Hot Springs, NC, walking alongside the French Broad River. We are climbing relentlessly upward as we make our way North on the AT toward the top of Lovers Leap Rock. I can feel the the effects of three weeks in a car. I move forward without stopping but my calves are burning and I'm moving slower the usual. Which means I'm moving pretty slow.

We reach the top of lovers leap after a mere 0.3 miles. From here there was a birds-eye view of the French Broad River, 500 ft. This iconic landmark gets its name from a Cherokee Indian legend that tells of a maiden who threw herself from the steep cliff after learning her lover had been killed by a jealous beau. Such a sad legend for such a romantic sounding place.

View of the French Broad River from the top of Lovers Leap Rock

From here we continued upward for nearly another two miles, discussing the recent catastrophic earthquake in Nepal, and the hypothetical future of Mt. Everest. Our hearts are with the victims families of everyone affected, and we are grateful for the safety of friends that have just made it home safely.

We took the Pump Gap Trail back down to the parking lot. The downhill was long but easy. As we neared the bottom we passed two small concrete buildings, which are old bunkers that were used to hold explosives.

There were also several water crossings and I managed to keep my feet dry until the very end. I regret not getting a picture, but the crossing was wide (maybe ten yards) but shallow. F** - it. I walked right on through. Shoes and socks will dry and my feet will eventually regain feeling.

Post trail refueling consisted of a salad, grilled chicken, and a beer from the local Spring Creek Tavern in "downtown" Hot Springs. While we enjoyed our meal on the outside porch we noticed the rather large group of thru-hikers gathered on the front porch of the Hiker Ridge Ministry across the way. "We should buy them beer when we go to the store" Cori suggested. Brilliant. We picked up a 24 pack of Yuengling on the way back from Dollar General and cheerfully delivered it to the very appreciative group of hikers...and bikers! That's right! There was a couple there that is currently biking the Trans America Trail, and they took a little detour to the south. The TransAm trail is something that Cori and I have talked about doing for the past four years. It was actually on our list to do before the PCT and it fell by the wayside when I went to work for The Nature Conservancy in Georgia in 2013. Tonight's encounter has definitely resurrected the interest and has it back to the top of our list once Cori gets her whole rib/heart thing under control. I'm also slightly terrified of road biking so some short trips will be needed before jumping I to a three month cross-country biking trip. Guess that means it's time to start planning a short bike trip! Highway 12 in Southern Utah sounds good to me ;) Stay tuned!

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