In late June, 2011, a month before a big backpacking trip with Will McElwee and compatriots to the Wind River Range in Wyoming, I planned a backpacking trip on Grandfather Mountain as training. Friday afternoon I left home and was at the mountain within about an hour. Arriving at the Boone Fork parking area along the Blue Ridge Parkway by early evening, I was surprised at the number of other vehicles still in the lot. I assumed they were other backpackers. It turned out, based on traffic on the trail, many of the vehicles belonged to day hikers who were late returning to their cars.
Friday night was spent at the Creek Side campsite on the Nuwati Trail. The evening was pleasant and uneventful, except for several groups of day hikers who passed my campsite close to dark, while still 45 minutes from the parking lot. Besides the physical training, I was testing several fairly new pieces of camp gear, including a Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 tent, Salewa boots and a SnowPeak stove. I was also trying to get up to speed on several technical and somewhat complex items that I had for several years, but had not used in awhile, such as a MSR water filter.
Everything seemed to work more or less well. There was nothing wrong with the tent, but eventually I decided its dual walls were too delicate and complicated, so I would likely switch back to a GoLite Eden 1 single wall tent. The boots took some practice to figure out. Laced loosely, they allowed blisters to form on my heel. But laced tightly, they did not, especially when backed up with a Spenco 2nd Skin adhesive knit bandage under my sock. Unfortunately, like all boots I have used for many years, the cuff banged the outside of my ankle and inflamed my calf tendon.
Saturday morning I hiked back down the Nuwati Trail to the Tanawha Trail, went south, and then took the Daniel Boone Scout Trail southwest. With my full backpack causing me to move cautiously on the steep and slick places, I climbed Calloway Peak to the highest point on the mountain. I was able to traverse 3 miles and ascend 2,000 feet in about 2 ˝ hours. I was pleased with my progress.
That afternoon I returned to my car and drove to my family’s cabin on Shulls Mill Road, Watauga County, and spent a pleasant evening with my Mom. I had supper with her, but I still put up the tent in the yard and slept outdoors. My sleeping had a number of years and a fair amount of wear on it. The fabric along the zipper had many weak points from prior snags. Angrily, I saw that in the process of pulling out another snag, I had torn a hole in the fabric. I was able to fix it with a piece of nylon tape, but the bag was no longer like new.
Sunday morning I drove to Price Park and parked at the big picnic ground. Again wearing my full backpack, which made me look a little dumb, since no backpack camping is allowed in the park, I hiked the Boone Fork Trail loop. Covering 5 miles and about 1,000 feet of altitude loss and gain in 2 ˝ hours made me satisfied with my condition. With time to kill, I drove to the Mast General Store in Valle Cruces and shopped among their camp gear, then headed home.