Today my friends and I hiked from Cataloochee, along Pretty Hollow Gap Trail, to Swallow Fork Trail, to Low Gap Trail, to the Appalachian Trail, to Mt Cammerer, and back again. This was a very challenging 30.4 mile day hike with 7284 feet of climbing according to Caltopo. It took 13 hours total, sunrise to sunset. We started at 7:50 (sunrise) and got back to the car at 8:50 (nearly 2 hours past sunset) stopping twice for 30 minutes each: once at mile 15 for lunch at the Mt Cammerer fire watch tower and once at mile 20 to refill our water at Walnut Bottom. Unfortunately, like last week, the clouds covered the top of Mt Cammerer so we didn’t have a view. By the time we stopped to refill our water in the evening, the clouds lifted, and we could see bright patches of fall colors through the trees around us. On the hike back up to Pretty Hollow Gap the sun was starting to set. Golden hour was quickly approaching. We picked up our pace to reach the gap before the sun set only to realize the gap we first passed in the clouds was covered in trees blocking a clear view of the surrounding mountainsides.
I had not ever seen any mushrooms like the one below, so I had to stop quickly to take a picture. I think it is in the Hericium genus of edible, medicinal mushrooms that appear in late summer and fall. Hiking so far and so quickly is different than what I am used to and what I prefer. There were many times I would have liked to stop for a photo and had to keep moving. Similarly, by the end I was on autopilot just trying to put one foot in front of the other. I was really happy with my hiking boots. I wore only one pair of wool socks and only had a small blister by the end. I am not sure I ate enough. During the days leading up to the hike ate more than I normally do, and in the morning I had a good breakfast. On the hike I had a peanut butter sandwich (350 cal) apple sauce (100 cal), two Chick-fil-a sandwiches (880 cal and great trail food), four rxbar (840 cal), a banana (90 cal), trail mix (460 cal), five thin mints (180), and a brownie (250 cal), for a total of only 3150 calories. Next time, I need to be better about planning food.