April 23 - Spring Mountain Shelter (284.9)

Achin and I agreed last night to work toward this shelter separately, seeing as we are coming from two different starting points. I'm out of the hostel and heading toward the center of town. The citizens have placed concrete "AT" symbols in the sidewalk, and wave to you as they drive by.

Cross the bridge which goes over the French Broad River, about 100 feet across and rushing with rainwater. Get to other end, and step over the guardrail down some stone stairs to a waiting old black lab who greets me, then wanders off. The Trail follows the river, and I pass the campsites of hikers who stayed overnight.

I also walk over sand, which adds to the growing list of surfaces I've had to use (dirt, mud, snow, ice, roots, wood stairs, stone stairs, rocks (larger), stones (smaller), rock face, shallow watery streams, tree bark).

Take Trail up, and there are multiple local trails here too.  Get called back by a hiker when I start up the wrong way on one. Keep coming out on higher and higher rock cliffs, one of which is Lovers Leap, just not sure which.

Trail comes up to an old concrete dam,which forms a pond, kind of randomly. Run into a couple from the hostel and Alabama, whose trail names I can't remember, but they are testing her legs after an injury by slack packing back to Hot Springs. She's doing well, and am I likely to see them again?

Then the puzzle. From the Guide, "AT 0.3W on dirt road. Cross Mill Ridge to gravel road (double blazed oak tree). Go 0.1W on gravel road and re-enter woods to east."

What?

There's a dirt road, or is it gravel road, with white blazes. Head down that. Then there is a road/trail that goes to the left, no blazes, and no visible blazes on the road I'm on. Decide to stay with the latter and eventually find more blazes and the oak tree, and a new dirt road which goes up to what appears to be a trail. It is a trail, so wander up to check it out but it's for bikes, so back down this dirt road to the other dirt road. Decide to just stay on it, find more blazes, and then the Trail. Sheesh.

Achin catches up soon thereafter, and we confirm going to shelter. Get ahead of him again due to inclines, stop for light lunch, Achin wanders up and joins, and then Tigger (two, actually the third one, from Chelmsford) to say hi. Find I have cell signal so can talk to Deb for a few minutes but lose signal a few minutes later.

Make shelter at 2:00 with Achin arriving 15 minutes later, we're the only ones here. Reading the trail registry in the shelter, realize best camping spots are beyond and above the shelter area, so we camp there. It's about 65 degrees, sunny, breezy, and by the time it's 6:00 there are 12+ hikers in the area.

We target a shelter 15 miles away for tomorrow, with weather expected like today, but rain and possible thunder storms on Friday.

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