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  • Writer's pictureRobert Moore

Over the Roan Highlands

Updated: May 2

We had a fantastic stay with a family in Erwin. Duane and Sandy Creger were gracious hosts who warmly opened their house to us. Lunch was a fresh BLT and dinner was a big spread of chicken kabobs, salad, cornbread, and corn on the cob. They even accommodated mine and Cornbreads annoying habit of waking up at 5. We had a delicious and filling breakfast burrito with fresh fruit. Then Duane had us on the trail by 7:00 am. The Cregers (and neighbor Van) are the finest people you could ever hope to meet. God fearing, America-loving Christians who give freely to others and expect nothing in return. They raised three great sons - all military men. Anyone who thinks America is losing its charm should go spend a night with those fine people.

Then it was back to work. Cornbread had planned out a four day leg of about 60 miles. On the way to our first camp we had to climb up a mountain to what is locally called The Beauty Spot. It was pretty with panoramic views but should be named the cardiac arrest spot. I struggled to the top but not before seeing a townie throwing up from the climb - it was relentless. Later we arrived at the peak of Mt Unaka (means white in Cherokee - as in shrouded in fog) - which we dubbed the Enchanted Forest. The summit was crowned in red spruce with a spongy floor of little pine needles. It was dark and misty and had a real science fiction feel to it.

After a delightful night at Unaka we hiked to the Clyde Smith shelter at the foothills of Roan Mountain. Our app told us that a norovirus infected hiker had been there in the last couple of days so we tented a safe distance from the shelter.

I was excited as we set up because Duane had mentioned that there would be a meteor shower the following morning. We did our camp chores and all turned in - asleep by 8:30. I was set up near a hiker known as Marathon and thought I heard him talking in his sleep a couple times but otherwise I slept well and was awake at 4:30 to catch the meteors.

It was a magical morning - the coyotes were going back and forth with a town dog in the distance. That got the barred owls going with their familiar hoo-hoo hoo-hoo call. Then I saw a meteorite streaking across an impossibly starry sky - the tail was bright orange and almost sparking as it entered the atmosphere. I was excited.

I couldn't really say anything to get Cornbreads attention because everyone else was asleep. So, I walked over to his tent while extinguishing my headlamp so as not to blind him. He was just backing out of his little one man tent as I approached. He must have sensed me walking up behind him and he whirled around, eyes wide and said, 'Bleep bleep, don't do that - I thought you were that damn bear!' (Again I thought Samual L Jackson was there).

He must have seen the confused look on my face. 'You know, the bear that was here last night?'

'Umm, bear? What bear?'

'The one I scared off twice last night!' He said.

Then it started to click. It had been him yelling at the bear that I mistook for Marathon talking in his sleep. Apparently the bear had been stalking camp since midnight and Cornbread had been hollering 'Oye' at it to scare it off (a crocodile Dundee trick). After the first encounter, he couldn't sleep so he was checking our app for any other bear activity and sure enough - someone had posted that his food sack had been mauled there the night before but it hadn't posted until we were asleep.

Well, we survived the bear encounter and I promised not to sneak up on him with my black hiking hoodie anymore. Then we began the long, several mile climb of Roan Mountain where we met my ole war buddy, Chris Newton. He picked us up at a road crossing and took us to a local park for some BBQ, fixings and his homemade banana pudding. We reminisced about our tour in Iraq together and we agreed on the miraculous healing power of the trail. He has hiked from Damascus to Fontana. He had us back on the trail with full bellies and full food bags within an hour or so.

We pushed on for a total of about 15 miles and camped at the old Overmountain Shelter site. The shelter has been demolished for safety reasons but there is still a famous privy and lots of flat tent sites.

The following morning we were running from a storm again and broke camp at 5:30. We had two large balds to cross and another 5 miles to make it to the Mountain Harbor Hostel before the rain started.

By the way, a bald is a mountain that has no trees at the top. Either farming or fire or an act of God has left their tops with nothing but stone and grass. They are difficult to hike because you can see how far away the top is as you ascend and it plays in your confidence - and patience. They seem to never end.

Well we didn't make it all the way to the hostel but the two hours we got rained on were light.

Now we are gonna take our first zero in about 9 days. Much needed - we're both ready for some rest.

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3 commentaires

Cl Eagan
Cl Eagan
05 mai

So good to hear your voice shining thru in these posts, Rob! Continuing to lift you up in prayer. 🙏


Ron Connelly
Ron Connelly
01 mai

love the updates!!

Robert Moore
Robert Moore
01 mai
En réponse à

Thanks Ron. I love doing them. It helps me remember what me and Derek did all week.

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