Dispatches from the Gap


Not that Gap. In the South, they call mountain passes “gaps.” As in Gooch Gap, Sassafras Gap, or Betty Creek Gap.

A chilly but sunny day here on the trail. I’ve wished for a way to write down at least one amazing experience every day since we’ve been out. But since my blogging access is mostly via Zippy’s smartphone on high peaks (yeah, for some reason we left the laptop at home), my posts may be less like prose and more like haiku or, god forbid, tweets. Here are a few:

We are now in North Carolina. Over a hundred miles in.

A guy passed a kidney stone one night in his tent. We awakened in the blackness to a stream of anguished curses and pleas to a deity. “Are you all right?” I called out, although it was obvious he was not. He explained what was happening and declined my generous offer of ibuprofen (a raindrop in an ocean, I am sure). By morning he was done and laughing and smiling with his son again. I wonder if he packed out the stone.

It is interesting to this self-proclaimed wimp that so much enjoyment can be had along with a little bit of discomfort (such as swallowing a tiny splinter kicked up by the next person’s trekking pole–true story) every day. I am having a wonderful time. For instance:

We had a comedy of errors one very rainy day. The trail was beautiful, like walking on another planet, bare branches emerging like aliens from the dense fog, the path dipping into tunnels of rhododendron, which seem to be evergreen. We wore the cuben fiber rain suits J. had made, looking like spacemen. The shelter where we intended to stay was full of miserably cold-looking people, so we plunged on. We settled at Beech Gap, amid ever-stronger gusts of rain. There was no wooden shelter, so we pitched the tent in what soon became a minor lake. It took all evening to repack, keeping everything relatively dry, move the tent (yep, still raining hard), dry off and unpack again. But we slept warm and sheltered from the wind. All in all, we decided our rookie mistake still beat the cold, windy, overpopulated shelter.

The next morning dawned crisp and clear. We sunned our gear and ourselves at Mooney Gap over hummus and pita that afternoon, and scuttled off the trail over a ridge to give ourselves “showers” (a water bladder filled with boiled water, squeezed through a perforated soda cap by one person over the other, followed by a shivery but delicious toweling-off).

Just two days after a windy, snowy day, a butterfly the color of a fallen leaf warmed its wings near the peak of Tray Mountain. Did it hatch so quickly? Or do butterflies have special hiding places during snowstorms?

There are already buds on certain magnolias, and dramatic icicles coexist with verdant moss and ivies, stuffed into small cliffs along our path. It’s going to be amazing to watch spring overtake us.