April 14, 1998

4/14/98 Vandeventer Shelter

17.5 miles (419.5 total)

Had a beautiful day! Got up this morning and cooked pancakes for everyone. Pancakes are a love/hate thing for me. I love them but they don’t always agree with my stomach. It rained last night, but as usual it tapered off by the time I left this morning.

The only bridge out of 3 across the Laurel Fork river
to be repaired after last winters damage

You could hear the water in the Laurel Fork Gorge long before you could see it. Rapids and falls everywhere. One of the most impressive trail maintenance feats was the massive stone steps down into the gorge. There had to be 30-40 flat boulder steps, all level and tight fitting.

The falls I did see were spectacular. Chopper became the first hiker this year to swim the falls - had to be freezing. The climb over the rocks with a full pack had me hugging stone several times. But the best fun was, not one, but two river crossings. A bad snow-storm this winter washed out two bridges. Like I said the water was freezing and where I crossed was about three-feet deep. Each time I came out of the water, it seemed amazing that feeling returned to my feet. Saw some deer going up out of the gorge. Several went bounding away while one held back. It was almost hard to see him since he blended in with the trees.

Laurel Fork Falls

I made pretty good time to Watanga Lake. The water was on my right all afternoon. We crossed the Watanga Dam, the first large earth-filled hydroelectric dam built in the US, and then climbed alot to get to the ridgeline. Once there, the hike wasn’t too bad. The clouds and sun danced all day but the wind was pretty cool up on the ridge.

Watanga Dam

Met Long Stride and his family heading south. His dad, mom and sister came up for the Easter holiday to hike with him. Today was there last day and he was very glad, because his pack never weighed this much. He’d been carrying the food for all four people. Plus he said his mom’s pack only weighed 12 pounds. It gave his family a little more realistic picture of what he was doing. They got wet, the miles were so-so and there were problems getting water. Could be cool to meet up with Long Stride again.

Now, I’m here at Vandeventer Shelter with Ghandi, Ol’Crawdad, Straight Away and a section hiker from England named Mike. The view out the back of the shelter is one of the best so far on the trail: overlooking Watanga Lake. Trying to decide if I want to do a 23-miler tomorrow. Am I crazy or what?