May 12/2013 p.m.
I don’t typically use two posts to describe one day’s hike, but it seems warranted in this case. The next three miles are outstandingly beautiful!
It is 5 miles to the Overmountain Shelter, and that is our goal for finishing out the day. While taking (ahem) comfort at the facility by the parking lot (a little off the trail, but not much), Dragonfly and Prairie Dog have leap-frogged us once again. I really don’t care that they are now in the lead, the joke is on them. They have missed a wonderful opportunity to use a semi-civilized facility; a rarity while hiking.
The trail northward is groomed for day hikers. The path is wide and graveled and meanders easily up the hill. With a parking lot at Carver’s Gap, this is clearly a great place for locals to take a day’s pilgrimage into the mountains.
We ascend a pair of balds, Round Bald and Jane Bald. The views are breathtaking. The afternoon is crisp and cool, the sky mostly clear, and one cannot help but think this is what it is all about. Perhaps these magnificent views are some of the most difficult to photograph in such a way as to demonstrate the grandeur. You simply must go there and see it yourself.
Somewhere around Jane Bald we happen upon the two aforementioned hikers whom had recently passed us. They are taking a break. I dare not speak how delighted I am to take the lead once again. It would not please the daughter to think I was racing. In the few moments we spend as we are passing, they are once again sharing wisdom from the trail guide. This is the first that I learn that there is something special about the Overmountain Shelter — it is a converted tobacco barn that the Appalachian Trail Association has purchased and converted into a shelter. That makes it a popular stop, if not a must stop.
After cresting the bald, we start an easy descent across the remaining 2 or three miles. The walk is absolutely pleasant. We first come upon lonely Stan Murray Shelter. The shelter is lonely because since the trail association purchased and opened the Overmountain Shelter, a mere two miles away, I suspect few people use Stan Murray. It amuses the daughter to call it Sean Murray Shelter, as it suggests to her the actor by that name.
Shortly we arrive at the side trail which leads to the Overmountain Shelter. If memory serves me correctly, it is about four tenths of a mile off the main trail, and well worth the walk. The side trail is through open woods and it is not long until we get a visual of the red shelter just on the other side of a gravel road. We cross a water source perfectly placed and add a retarded amount of water to our load.
The Overmountain Shelter takes its name from the Overmountain Trail which passes through this gap; Yellow Mountain Gap. The story of this region is fascinating to me. For years American patriots had swarmed across the Appalachians and leased or purchased lands from the Indians there, thus establishing the first independent American governmental units. Both the Virginia colonial government and the British Crown considered these settlements illegal and illegitimate.
In 1780, British General Charles Cornwallis invaded North Carolina and commissioned Major Patrick Ferguson to clear out the Patriots located in the region. As a side note, Patriots were Americans seeking independence, Loyalists were Americans fighting to preserve the British Crown.
From Wikipedia: “Ferguson pardoned a captured frontiersmen named Samuel Phillips (a cousin to Isaac Shelby) so that Phillips could carry a message to the Overmountain settlements. In the message, Ferguson warned the Overmountain Men that if they didn’t lay down their arms, he would ‘march his army over the mountains, hang their leaders, and lay waste the country with fire and sword.’ ”
Great bravado on the part of the Brits. Unfortunately, they vastly underestimated the courage, resolve, stamina, and will of the Patriots which inhabited the Appalachian regions. Using their own horses, supplies, and munitions (hence the second amendment, folks), they rallied an army, and to make a long story short, rode across this Overmountain Trail, attacked and defeated Ferguson and his Loyalist contingent. Ferguson, in another misguided oath, swore at the Battle of Kings Mountain (where the major battle took place) that the Americans could not remove him and his forces from this mountain. In an ironic twist, Ferguson lost the battle and his life and is buried on Kings Mountain. It seems his prophecy was correct, though perhaps not the way he intended. I recommend the Wikipedia quick history I linked above.
We finish our walk to the shelter. It sits in a large clearing and abuts the tree covered mountain to its rear. Many of the characters encountered at last night’s shelter have arrived or are to arrive shortly. It will be a memorable evening.