Instead of going to WNDC tonight I headed into Pisgah to get some thinking done with my best friend. I drove up to Yellow Gap and from there Duma and I started running up Laurel Mountain. After one fall (something I'm getting good at these days, there was last week's wndc crash and then Monday I went down on my road bike at 36.9mph when a van decided he didn't like bikes and came to a stop in the middle of the Howard Gap Rd. downhill) we made it to Rich Gap in good time. I didn't feel like going any further up the trail and didn't feel like turning around either, so we went the other way. Other way? That's right, the other way, towards the top of Black Mountain (check your map!).
Those of you keeping score at home have likely noticed that I have stopped bushwhacking for the summer as crawling through rhodo for hours is probably not a good idea with all the plants, bugs and snakes out but this really isn't a bushwhack and I had done part of it before coming from 5051 so I had an idea of what was going on. We followed the faint trail and quickly hit what I thought was the top of Black Mtn.
I had been there before and it sure seemed like a top but I had no map, no compass, no gps, no altimeter, nothing with me to confirm where I was. Shortly after the picture I realized it was just a knob and the real summit was just in front of us. A minute later and there we were. No doubt about it.
Downhill from here:
On the way back down we were following the ridge line and hit a place where two fingers broke off in completely different directions. For a second I wished I had brought something with me to help confirm direction, my watch with compass and altimeter would have been perfect, or a piece of a map, but told myself I knew exactly where I was and continued on down the spine of the mountain. The overgrowth finally opened up into the trail I was expecting.
From there it was wide open and we went from hiking to running once again. For a moment it seemed like we were dropping a lot of elevation and I started to second guess myself once again and was praying that I wasn't completely wrong and was going to find myself somewhere on Big Creek but then a road appeared before me and a second later we popped out at Yellow Gap, just as I had expected.
I gave the dog a high five and reached for my water to take the last sip and realized I had dropped a bottle somewhere along the way. So, much to his chagrin, I told Duma we were going back up for it. The whole loop had taken less than an hour so even walking I knew it couldn't be that far to the dropped bottle and didn't want to leave it up there so back up we went. Luckily it was about halfway up so the dog was spared too much more in the heat. We ran back down and just before reaching Yellow Gap we ran into this guy stretched across the trail.
Duma was in the lead, and on leash, as always these days, and he was inches from it when I saw it and thought rattlesnake! and pulled him back as hard as I ever had. I think we scared the snake more than he scared us but I wasn't about to take any chances with that!