Last night I camped near Stan Murray Shelter and there was no one there. I guess everyone else had pressed on to the next shelter (the popular Overmountain Shelter) or was camping on one of the high balds a few miles north. I had gone far enough for the day so I set up my tent, got water, and made dinner. No one came along so for the first time I was camping all by myself. I had been a little nervous about that but, in fact, it did not bother me at all.
Just after the sun went down the wind really picked up and built to a real howl. I was protected by a terrain contour so it did not hit me directly but I was worried about some hikers who were camping behind me. I’m not exaggerating when I say it sounded like a train running all night long.
In the morning it was still very windy as I packed up. Goose, who I had met a couple of days before, came by and said that the wind had been pretty hard on him and that he’d gotten started early to try to get out of it as soon as possible.
I started hiking at 7:30 and by 9:00 was in the clouds in the strongest wind I had ever experienced. Later I learned the steady wind speed was 50 mph with gusts much higher. For two hours I hiked with about 76-100′ visibility and this howling wind buffeting me in, out and around the rutted trail. The guide said that there were great views all around but they weren’t going to be seen this morning. Being on the top of a huge bald, I knew I did not have to be concerned about falling limbs or branches, but did look up occasionally to make sure there wasn’t something unexpected flying my way.
Eventually I crossed the final bald, called Hump Mountain, and headed down into the trees. Finally I was out of the wind. The rest of the hike was uneventful and by noon the skies had cleared and it was a beautiful day.
As the trail approached the small town of Roan Mountain, Tennessee, I ran into Bearfoot who was doing trail magic. I had a Mountain Dew, my third one in three weeks, and some Fig Newtons, before heading off to Mountain Harbour Hostel where I will spend the night. Here’s a photo of the sign indicating that I am leaving North Carolina for the final time on the trail and another of Bearfoot and two hikers enjoying his magic.