Saturday, May 2, 2015

May 2 – The AT to Charlies Bunion

I had some misgiving about doing this hike since I think it is right on the border of our current abilities without feeling like a total zombie afterwards. But it was a perfect day and the hike seemed to be on everybody's must do list so off we went.

The hike is an 8 mile return trip that uses a section of the Appalachian Trail as it passes through the park. The first 3 miles is a 1000 vertical foot climb to a shelter used by the Appalachian Trail thru hikers. The next mile is a 500 vertical foot drop to the rock formation known as Charlies Bunion. And then you do it in reverse.

The story I have read about the name is that the rock formation sticks out the side of a mountain and an early hiker thought it looked like the bunion on his friend’s foot. Not the greatest name but it stuck.


The trail starts at the Newfound Gap parking lot where we had had lunch in the RV when moving across the park. The Appalachian Trail Is not maintained by the park but by volunteers over it’s entire length.

It starts out with steps. I hate steps, both going up and coming down because they are so much more jarring on the legs.


It was cold enough that when we got out of the car the jackets went on. All through the day it was a toss up as to whether I kept my fleece on. In the shadows, which there were a lot of,  I needed it but as soon as I was in the sun I was sweating.

The 3 mile climb up was quite shady and had some real rough spots. Jennie borrowed my light jacket because the one she started out with got way too hot.


It was not all like this but there were enough to make it a tough climb.



We can’t identify this small shrub from its flowers. It stood about 6 feet tall.


We even found some snow in a few of the permanently shady spots.


Most of the big fir and balsam trees in the park have been killed by a small bug that eats all the sap. They are having a real hard time fighting it.


This tiny flower was about 1/2 inch across.


Even when we were walking along a ridge there weren’t a lot of views because of the thick trees.


There was one good spot.



The trail levelled out for a short while before we got to Icewater Springs Shelter.




We had started the hike at 10 am. It was now noon so we had lunch.


Heading down from the shelter it was back to the deep, dark forest.


Then a nice flat traverse to get to the Bunion.


Another reason I was somewhat doubtful about this hike was that all the blogs and guide books I had read did a terrible job of showing or describing what the bunion looked like. I hope I do a better job. It was not at all what I had pictured in my mind. It was much better.

This was our first view through the trees.


It looked a bit crowded out there.


The trail itself was the busiest we had been on yet but it was not too bad. We got passed a lot, especially by the very fit young and some quite old thru hikers but were alone most of the time. Surprising to us, most of the thru hikers we saw were single women.


The side path out to the actual bunion.



In hindsight this was not the greatest hike for Jennie. The only real views were at the bunion and we were perched on this little rock with many hundred foot vertical cliffs all around us. But she did it and came out to the end.


You could go around the corner and look back.


Everybody, that wanted to, took turns climbing up the rock for pictures. The rocks were well worn from all the people over the years so you had to be really careful. It was a LONG way down.



My turn.


At a lot of the waterfalls there have been signs saying to be careful and that X number of people have died climbing on the rocks. At what I think is the most dangerous place, there was nothing.

Back at the main trail there was a path to climb up to the rocks above where everybody was, so off I went. You can just see Jennie’s hat and blue jacket, center bottom.




For reference.


By now it was about 1:30 so we headed back. We have to climb up that hill ahead of us.


At the top, back at the shelter, we had a nice long rest before starting the trek down.

Jennie is always scanning the trail for interesting things. I have no idea how she spotted this bug. It couldn’t have been more than a 1/2 inch long.


The relief on seeing the end.


The Newfound Gap lookout was a busy place by now.


It now was 4 pm so it had been a 6 hour hike. We were / are pretty done in but not as bad as after some of the ones last year. We really enjoyed the luxury of sitting on the nice, soft car seats and had a good rest and a snack before heading back down to the RV.

We both commented on the number of motorcycles out. It was a beautiful day and I guess they like the nice curvy road.

The weather outlook for the next few days is a bit iffy so we don’t know what are plans are, other than nothing too tough tomorrow.

I know the hike was worth it for me. I haven’t asked Jennie!

1 comment:

  1. Awesome view from the bunion! You both must be in great shape! Well done!!!