“Do you have any drugs?”

Who needs drugs? When you can go out for an early-morning stroll and see this: 

Sunrise at Grassy Ridge

 And when you get to the top you’re surrounded by rolling hills like this: 

Summit at Grassy Ridge
Summit at Grassy Ridge


We hit the Appalachian Trail this past weekend for some exercise and some R&R. A few in the group are doing a South Beyond 6000 challenge, which involves climbing 40 peaks that are above 6,000 feet in elevation in the southern Appalachians. This past weekend was 3 peaks (counting as two in the challenge, since they are relatively short hikes on their own, and they are so close together): Grassy Ridge, Roan High Knob and Roan High Bluff.

I was just along for the ride, invited by Kevin and eager to get some exercise. Before we left, I was concerned about my ability to keep up with the group – they had dusted me on our last hike at Mount Mitchell, as I had been scared of the ice. But after a slightly icy start at Grassy Ridge, it turned into a mix of soft snow and no snow. The next two peaks – Roan High Knob and Roan High Bluff were completely covered with powdery snow. Several feet of it. Meaning it was a great resistance workout (every few steps the snow would collapse several feet underneath us, making walking through the snow akin to running in the sand or something like that.)

See how Kevin is knee-deep in snow? A moment before, he was walking on it. Then it collapsed. This happened every few steps.

And my marathon training did not fail me – I was able to keep up with little effort. The icyness at Mount Mitchell had me going slow for fear of falling, breaking a leg, falling off a mountain, etc. The powdery snow here didn’t scare me at all – bring it!

We met a few interesting folks along the AT, including two guys who asked as soon as they saw us: “Do you have any drugs?” Pretty ballsy to ask a stranger, but I guess the trail is a whole other world …

We stayed at a shelter on the AT. It’s basically two rooms on two floors. It’s first-come, first served, and there’s not a lot to it, other than it’s an adorable little cabin and it kept the wind out!

I am eagerly preparing my first (and only) cup of coffee for the day

I got to sleep in my hammock for the first time, which was amazing … in fact, I want to go camping again ASAP just so I can use it again! Andrew, Karen and Kevin are experienced hammock campers, and they were able to give me some great tips regarding how to use it, which sounds silly but they really were helpful! If you are considering a hammock, let me know and I’ll pass along the advice.

Hammock camping inside the shelter

 We even had time to have some fun with the camera. I took this photo of Andrew “reaching the summit” at Roan High Knob. Really, there was no climbing necessary, but a fun camera angle can make the summit look more hard-core than it is!

Andrew reaching the summit at Roan High Knob - but not really

 A warm fire, and an amazing night of sleep followed … if you’ve read my other camping blogs, you know sleeping on the trail is tough for me. I hear noises and I freak out. I toss and turn all night, and sleeping bags and the hard ground are not meant for that. I have some claustrophobia. But in the hammock, and in the shelter, and with Althea the dog nearby … I was great. No claustrophobia. I didn’t toss and turn – which was tough for me, but I was able to sleep anyway. And anytime I heard a weird noise, I would wait to see if Althea would react. When she was calm, I was able to be calm. Dogs are great.

The next morning, we hit the trail for home. And as usual, I wish I was still on the trail!

Heading back down the mountain

Giving credit where it’s due: I forgot my camera; these pictures are from Kevin and Andrew’s cameras.

The stats: According to Kevin’s Garmin, we hiked 12.62 miles in 8:19:42. We climbed about 3,200 feet. I burned about 4,100 calories according to the online calorie calculators I found. I am feeling much less discouraged than last week  – thank you all soooo much for your encouragement in the comments. I needed to hear it, and I’m ready to get back to it!