The trip got off to a rocky start. While the travel to Asheville, NC. went smoothly Sly and I had a tough time connecting at the airport. We just failed to link up for 2 hours. But, in time we found each other and we drove to his home in Black Mountain, NC. where Cherryl was waiting. I got everything packed up for the trip and to send away and the three of us spent the evening chatting, having dinner, and watching more TV news than I have seen in some time.
The next morning Sly drove me to Rock Gap and we said goodbye. The day had turned into a bright , clear, warm, sunshine filed afternoon. It was about 12:30 and time to hit the trail. I planned to hike to Siler bald which was about 8.1 miles from the gap. This is the bald that gave Paul Hann his trail name 3 years ago. I hoped, like Paul and his Twilight Tribe, to camp out on the bald. I found that i was making good progress along the winding and undulating forest trail. In fact, I walked right by the side trail to the Wasilik poplar tree which is supposed to be the second largest poplar in the south. Ah well.
The day was warm but not so hot that I felt I had to remove my pant legs. I was feeling pretty good even though my pack felt like it weighed a ton. My only small complaint is that I did not see any wild flowers. Maybe they just have not started to bloom yet.
At Winding Stair Gap I met my first fellow hikers. A group of about 9 older gentlemen were out for their weekly hike. Today they had hiked to Siler Bald - a round trip of about 8 miles. They told me they had met 15 backpackers so far. I was surprised. I had not thought that there would be so many relatively late starters, but I was wrong.
As I continued on I was passed by a couple of backpackers. I doubt I'll see them again. I also saw some wildlife. I'm not sure if it was a butterfly or a moth with big white wings. It fluttered about the waterfall just past Winding Stair Gap.
I heard life around me. Songbirds were making some noise but not a great deal, mammals - squirrels and the like I'd wager - could be heard scurrying now and then, and woodpeckers (including piliated) were pecking. It was a fine afternoon and in relatively no time I was at SIler Bald.
I had been moving at nearly 1.9MPH which is superb for me, but that last little hike to the summit of the bald was a killer. As I huffed and puffed my way up Frito and Spock came on down. They're a couple from Texas hiking the trail.
The views from this mown bald are pretty good though I have encountered better. Still, for northbound hikers SIler Bald gives them a nice glimpse of what is to come.
I had planned to camp at the base of the bald, sheltered from the winds, but that did not happen. When I retrieved my water I found there was none left. I think the water squeezed out of the platypus hose when the pack fell on its back while I was taking pictures on the summit. I had to schlep the 0.6 miles to the SIler Bald shelter now and I had no desire to hike back up that hill tonight so I am staying at the shelter with 7 other people. All in all a very good 8.9 mile day.