Moreland Gap Shelter to Stealth Campsite – 20.3 miles
Decided not to hike the full 24 miles to Vandeventer Shelter today. I was tired, hungry, and ready to set up camp. The weather was actually sunny and warm today. You can now clearly see my sock tan…it was only a matter of time. Tomorrow’s forecast shows the same kind of weather. I hiked today without a shirt for about an hour. I don’t have sunscreen and my arm just under my armpit was starting to chaff. What’s worse, going over the big Pond Flats climb, someone tells me there is trail magic at the bottom. If there was any before, there was no trace of it by the time I got there. Oh well. I could not have picked a better campsite. Views on both sides. Played my p-bone towards the sunset and now I am watching the last rays of sun disappear behind the mountains and city lights. 3 snake sightings today, but many more dogs so some good animals.
The beginning of the day was relatively easy with the trail being mostly downhill until I got to Pond Flats which is a steep 2.6-mile climb up and 2.6-miles back down the other side. This is another section that I have hiked before with my mom. Laurel Falls is a popular spot for day hikers so there were a lot of people out. At the falls, there is a natural pool that some people were swimming in and a couple of people who were trying to climb the rocks beside the falls to jump in. I didn’t hang out there for long since I had seen it before and because I had a big mileage planned for today. The hiking around this area was a lot of fun and besides seeing a thru hiker peeing on the side of the trail without him realizing, I had a great time.
Not long after the falls there was a fork in the trail that separated the path between day hikers and thru hikers. A family there for the day was sitting at the fork and I stopped to ask them if they knew which way the AT went. They pointed up – which was what I assumed but it doesn’t hurt to be safe and ask. I ended up talking them for a little while. They asked me the usual questions about thru hiking, “How many miles do you hike a day?” “What do you eat?” “How often are you able to shower?”, etc. They were very nice – like most people on the trail – but eventually I had to be on my way. It was a warm day and I knew I’d be sweating extra hard going up Pond Flats.
Going back a few years, I remember this particular section vividly because it was so hot and humid when my mom, step dad(Andy), and I were hiking it. This climb up Pond Flats in particular was a struggle for all of us and we even stopped to consider turning around and calling it quits on the rest of the backpacking trip. I did not want to and was able to convince my mom and Andy to keep going. We pushed on and made it! Back in 2018, it was hot but not as blistering hot as it was a few years prior. I did take my shirt off on the way up to help but also knew I couldn’t hike like that for too long because I did not have sunscreen with me. Part way to the top a sobo section hiker was coming down and told me that there was trail magic on the other side of the mountain. That was more than enough motivation to get me moving faster up Pond Flats. About halfway up, I stop to catch my breath and to drink some water. Another thru hiker was taking a break at the same spot. We starting hiking again at the same time so we start chatting. His trail name is Rodo (I don’t remember why) and we would end up seeing each other multiple times along the trail. At this point in time though, he stopped at the top of Pond Flats at a campsite to wait for his friend to catch up and I continued hiking with nothing but trail magic going through my head. Finally on the other side of the mountain, I come out to a gravel road and follow the white blazes to cross a busy highway…no trail magic. I was so upset to have missed it. I wished that the section hiker hadn’t said anything to me about it so I wouldn’t have been so disappointed. Thankfully as a northbound hiker, I still get plenty of trail magic…just not this day.
No trail magic so I kept hiking. It took me a good 15 minutes to find where the trail went. After crossing the highway, I thought the trail followed right beside the road before breaking off back into the mountains. I followed the road but thankfully turned around quickly. It felt very wrong to be walking that way. Back where I first crossed it, I see a small hint of a trail and follow that and thankfully see a white blaze. It was hard to see until I was actually in the trees on the trail.
I was super tired and my feet were hurting. I originally planned to hike 24 miles to the Vandeventer Shelter but at this point I didn’t think I would want to try and make that. I ended up stopping after hitting 20 miles for the day at a cool little stealth spot that looked like people had camped there before. There was only 1 good flat spot for a tent, so I set up my things. I had a few hours before dark so I took my time making my dinner. I even watched an episode of The Office on my phone since I had service. I didn’t watch Netflix very often on the AT but this was a moment that I was happy to have that option. Braden and Rachael had the same plan for the day as me. As they were hiking past my campsite we said hi and they told me that there is a water source another mile or two down the trail that they were going to camp at. Thankfully I had enough water to last me through the night and I would be able to filter more the next morning where they were going to camp out at.
The rest of the night I had my pBone out. I tried and failed to learn some new songs while watching the sunset. I was too tired to focus and actually memorized something new so eventually I put it away and went to sleep. This was easily one of my favorite campsites.