Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Art Loeb

According to my careful calculations there are two ways to do the Art Loeb trail: you can run it in a single day or you can take your time and hike it over two days. If you are doing in a single day the only logical choice of days to do it is the shortest day of the year. If you take the two day option the logical choice would be to do it over the Summer Solstice when the days are the longest. As I am sure you can guess I took the second option and did my first Art Loeb thru hike starting last Friday. My companion for the journey was my best friend Duma. It was a magical couple of days in Pisgah that gave me a much needed break to slow down, enjoy nature and the art of walking, and bond with my dog.

We didn't get started until 4pm on Friday and with 30 miles ahead of us I was feeling a need to hurry but after a few miles and a few hours on the trail everything started to slow down. The hustle and bustle of a long work week quickly faded and we fell into the rhythm and pace of the forest. We hit Butter Gap at 8pm feeling good and stopped for water and chatted with another backpacker who was calling it a night there. We talked about how far we had come and how far we had to go before Duma and I headed out and pushed on to make some moontime. Darkness was falling as we climbed over Chestnut Mtn. Fireflies flashed as the sun gave way to the almost full moon that shone bright between the clouds. We crossed a few roads and then a short ways up Pilot Mtn. at 10pm there was a campsite that beckoned so we called it a night and bivied. A campfire was already built so we lit it and indulged in the luxury while I cooked some poor man's pad thai.



The sun rises early this time of the year and we were awake and back on the trail just a few minutes after six. Water was at a premium and more worried about my dog than myself, I gave Duma the rest of our precious water with his breakfast. I would wait until we got to Deep Gap for water and food. The climb up Pilot Mtn. was surprising easy in the early morning.


It didn't even seem like we were climbing. Just a couple of beings floating through the clouds up a mountain while all around us was nothing but flowers.





The summit was all fogged in so we didn't get the 360 degree view but we have seen it before and there would be more views ahead.


A quick stop at Deep Gap for some much needed water and breakfast and we were again on our way up the trail while other backpackers slept all around us. Past Farlow, up Shuck Ridge, cross the parkway and up some more. Morning had fully broken and with blue skies all around we made our way up into what must be heaven.



As we approached Black Balsam the solitude we had been enjoying was quickly replaced by hundreds of people all over the place. Climbing to the top of Tennent Mtn. was similar to waiting in line at an amusement park but with views like this all around it is no wonder why. Better than any roller coaster.


That stretch of trail is badly eroded and a lot harder than it seems like it should be. With noon approaching and not a hint of shade, drop of water or cloud in the sky, water was once again at a premium and Duma got the rest of our supply once again. I knew there would be water at Shining Creek but that seemed an impossible distance away so when we found this trickle shortly after crossing into the Wilderness it was a very welcome sight and relief. We sat there for fifteen minutes drinking our fill and resting up for what was to come.


Feeling good and with more water just ahead we went on, skipping through lily fields.


Once we passed Shining Rock Gap solitude was ours once again. It was a welcome relief to be off the balds and back in the forest again. We took a long break somewhere along the way and just enjoyed being there to marvel at the wonders of the natural world.


Stairs Mtn., the Shining Rock Ledge and the Narrows were all surprisingly easy. I was expecting a long hard climb but it never came. Just some rocks and a lot more amazing trail.


We took another long break at another Deep Gap before beginning the final four mile descent down to Daniel Boone. It is always the descent that gets us and I was especially worried about Duma. If I was tired he had to be really tired. He sat and took a few breaks and I even carried him over some of the tougher obstacles but after walking very slowly and then taking a break in the first creek he got a pep back in his step and seemed to know we were near the end. He knows Pisgah trails as good as any man and knew heading down Art Loeb 4 could only mean a car was waiting for us down there. One was and we made it down and to the end of the trail just 24 hours after we started the journey.

Another excellent Adventure in Pisgah in the books!

I love my pet!

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