Last week I was supposed to do around 60 miles on the Appalachian Trail, from Wallace Gap to Fontana Dam. But my friend Mike cut his hand really bad and decided to cancel. Which was the right choice considering where the cut was (between the index finger and thumb on the palm side), and how wet it was going to be — it would have been hard to keep the cut clean in those conditions. We have rescheduled that same section for May.
But I was really itching to get out! At first I was looking at options on the AT, but going solo is a pain for a one way trip, with the need to arrange shuttles or a pickup. Plus the weather was looking really bad all week. Eventually I settled on an overnight solo trek in Uhwarrie National Forrest. I waited until Sunday to leave — the 1st sunny day after 4 days of rain and storms!
While Uhwarrie is not scenic like many mountain trails, it is hilly (not mountainous), rugged, and I can be at the trailhead within 90 minutes of leaving my house. I had been on some northern portions of the trail and within the park a few years ago when training for a Rogaine, but I started this hike at the southern terminus on highway 24/27, which was new to me.
The 1st day I hiked about 8 hours, the 1st 6.5 or so all on the Uhwarrie National Trail. I reached a split for West Morris Mountain Campground, but decided to keep going on the UNT for another 45 minutes or so before turning back and heading to the campground. The campground was not much — just a few car camping sites and no water, so I decided to head back towards the trail to some primitive sites I had seen along the UNT. This is when a stray dog started following me. I tried to scare it away a few times, but she would not leave me alone. She followed me the next couple hours until I set up camp. I finally broke down and gave her some crackers.
I did not sleep great. I never seem to sleep that well the 1st night out, and here I was solo, in the middle of the woods, with a strange dog outside my tent. In some ways the dog was comforting — hopefully she would bark if anything snuck up. 🙂 It also got pretty cold — about 45F in the tent at one point. I had my 20F bag around me, but still got a little chilly until I put on my fleece and socks.
I woke up in the morning, made my coffee and oatmeal, packed up, and headed back towards the car. I opted to take Dutchman’s Creek Trail the last 5.5 miles instead of staying on the UNT the whole way. The dog followed me the whole way, so all told in the 2 days, she hiked with me around 15-18 miles! When I got to the trail head I called the rangers office about the dog, but was told they would call animal control. I then called a local vet, and they were able to scan for a microchip, but no luck. I called a local animal rescue place, but they were full. So I ended up taking “Uhwarrie” home, and for now, we have 3 dogs! We hope to find a home for her, though.
First a map of the park. I parked at the “P”‘ on the bottom, on 24/27 and hiked north a couple miles past West Morris Mtn Camp ground (not quite to 1134). There is an annual trail run of 8, 20, and 40, and the 40 starts at 1306. I would have liked to get all the way to that road so I could have seen the entire course, but that was too far to go in the time I had! I can say that after hiking the majority of the trail, I am impressed with those that run the 40 mile. It is a rugged, hilly course to say the least! I think I will try the 20 miler next year if I can get in — the race always fills up really fast!
As soon as I started, I knew it was going to be mucky… Four days of rain will do that, so many of the low sections of the trail looked like this:
While not scenic in terms of mountain vistas, there were some nice streams:
I also discovered there are very few bridges on the trail. There are many stream crossing that look like this… Many had rocks or logs you could use, but this one did not.
I stopped here on day 1 for a late snack, and thought about coming back to camp. The site sits between two running streams and was pretty nice.. But that didn’t work out and I camped further out.
Another stream shot…
A cool rock formation.
A bridge! There were only 2 or 3 on the whole trail, while there were many many stream crossings!
Here is where I set up camp. When I opened my pack against that tree where the poles are, when I first arrived, somehow my coffee filter “jumped” out! There are not many gear items that I would jump into a cold water stream and run after, but the coffee filter is one of them. I was in crocs running down the stream chasing my filter. I’m sure it would have been comical if anyone had been there to see, but this area was deserted.
Another example of a stream crossing — complete with a “natural” bridge.
Umm, can you make sense of this sign???
And here is “Uhwarrie,” the dog that followed me home: