About 11 miles into my hike on Saturday, I was ready to find a place to camp. I crested a mountain with two vistas, the westmost point of the loop, and shortly after, encountered a hiker who was doing a clock-wise hike around the loop. (I was hiking counter clock-wise.) I was surprised to find that he was doing the full loop (27.11 miles) in just two days, and more surprised to find he had more people in his group trailing behind him down the hill. “That’s ambitious”, I said, considering my plan was to cut the loop in half, and only hike the Northern section. That got my mind stirring, and I wondered if I should just hike the full circuit. After all, when would I return to hike the Southern half of the loop?
I pushed on another mile or so, and prior to the trail dipping down the mountain, I found a nice spot to camp on the ridge, complete with a fire ring, stack of wood, and two trees with ample distance between for my hammock. A peppered vegetable pack of potoatoes, carrots, celery and onion and two smores put my hunger at ease, and I called it a night.
The weather couldn’t have been more cool for this time of year, a blessing for hiking, but not easy for sleeping in a hammock. During the day, temperatures seemed no higher than 75, and there was hardly any humidity. Overnight, temperatures must have dropped to around 50. In a hooded sweatshirt, and wrapped in a light fleece bag, the cold air under my hammock kept me from getting a good sleep, and I was awake and ready to continue my trek at 5:30am. I retrieved my bear bag, hung in a tree down-wind of camp, whipped up a fire, and ate breakfast. (There is nothing like coffee in the woods.)
I was on the trail by 6:30am on Sunday, and before I was down the ridge, I knew I was going to tackle the full 27.11 mile circuit. I pushed on through the morning, stopping three or four times to water down, and arrived at my Jeep at 11:30am. Fifteen miles in just five hours — not a bad average!
My favorite part of the hike was undoubtly Rock Run, along the Northern portion of the trail. I have never seen a stream bed cut its way through the forest in that fashion, and I can only imagine how water rushes through it after a heavy snow-melt.