No long drive this morning so a little extra sleep feels good. This is the first hike on a second consecutive day. I was worried about feeling sore from yesterday’s miles so I did a lot of stretching last night that seems to have paid off with only mild reminders of muscles still adapting to the increased activity level. We made two different plans for today depending on how we felt this morning. We choose the longer hike from Lake Road to West Mombasha Road. We consume our ‘free’ breakfast at the motel then pack up and check out.
Cars stationed, we start from West Mombasha and hike south. The initial ascent is steady but not too steep as we head to Mombasha high point. The morning tea and coffee prompt a pit stop in the bushes nearby. Skies are sunny and clear and it is a little warmer than yesterday. Very pleasant. We meet a hiker we recognize from the parking lot at the end of the day yesterday. He looks to be in his 30’s and his gaiters and black knee support bands make him memorable. He quickly fills us in on his own adventure: today is the last day of his 5 day hike, he spent the night at Wildcat shelter and is now headed to Fingerboard shelter, he does shorter multi-day hikes because he can’t get off from work to do longer stretches, and he covers about 15 miles a day. We are impressed!
The terrain is very rocky, again, but it is a peaceful hike through the woods with mild changes in elevation. There are lots of large trees down along the trail that require small detours and climbing to get over and past. Was there a recent storm that we were unaware of? A large babbling brook runs along the trail to our left until we come to a steep 25 foot decent beside Fitzgerald Falls. Several groups are at the bottom of the falls, apparently a popular and easily accessible location only .2 miles from the road. The water is frigid, but three kids are splashing in the pool at the bottom. Two other kids are sitting on rocks with an older woman. Another boy is running up, across, and down steep, slick sides of the falls. He seems very confident and sure footed, bouncing from rock to rock like a mountain goat. I am both fearful and amazed as I watch. My intense fear of falling would prevent me from allowing my own kids to do this! I wonder how much my fear interfered with their exploration of the world while growing up. I know they often complained of my cautious nature, but I seemed to inherit the overprotective parenting style I hated so much from my own parents. I wonder what kind of parents my children will be…
Lynn and I remove our boots and socks and soak our feet in the water–which numbs our toes in minutes! We stay for about half an hour enjoying the sounds of the falls, brook and kids. We can’t seem to find the white blazes to get us back to the trail. A consult with the guide book leads us back across the brook on an easy hike back to the car. Another need for a pit stop on this well traveled section forces me up a steep hill-only to find another trail at the top! I find a large tree, take a quick glance in both directions and hope to maintain privacy- and do so successfully! Back down and a bit further along and we are at the car. Then back to the other car (which I pass by too fast to stop with another car close behind me and need to backtrack to get to).
We head to Monroe in search of food- Lasagne for me, chicken and spinach penne for Lynne – both great at the Family Restaurant and Pizza. We plan our hike for next week which consists of two short hikes to complete section 12 of the AT! Then off we go in our different directions. We hiked for 4 hours again, covered 3.5 miles. Total miles: 11.1 (Yep, this morning’s hiker guy tops our 3 day total in one day!) Others may not be impressed, but we are pretty pleased with ourselves, and motivation is high to continue our quest at our own pace!
Wishing everyone happy holidays filled with adventures large and small that bring you joy!