My first backpack since surgery - 2/25-2/26

Wanting to keep the trip easy in case my foot gave me problems, two of us set out to hike from Tremont, through Elkmont to Fighting Creek Gap over the weekend.  We decided on a trip with more uphill than downhill just in case my toe wasn’t going to like the trip and “toe bang” could give me problems.  Unfortunately, the opposite was true and the UPHILL caused more problems!

We set out from Tremont up the Lumber Ridge Trail around 9:30 Saturday morning. On our way up, during the first mile, we saw a single violet blooming alone on the hillside. There were a few stunning views on the sunny and windy day, but we were making good time, averaging 3.1 miles per hour by the time we reached our first trail junction 4.1 miles away.  The walking from this junction to campsite 20 was very easy and totally uneventful, getting us to camp entirely too early, but we still had plenty of time to find good firewood. I also learned how to play backgammon and won my first ever game!

Sunday morning begins with a climb out of campsite 20 up to Elkmont.  The first hill was a little tougher on me this morning due to the fact that I hadn’t backpacked in six long weeks, but I made it up with only one stubbing of my foot.  After reaching the first trail junction, we began the steady, easy grade up Cucumber Gap Trail, which was beginning to show signs of spring with vibrant green grasses growing on either side of the trail.  We meet the first people we’d see all day at the junction of Little River Trail, three young boys who found a dead body the day before on a quiet walkway across from Huskey Gap Trail.  We had a conversation with them for a few minutes and wished them well on their trip.  After walking the 0.4 miles to Huskey Gap Trail, we began our longer climb of the day, steady up to Sugarland Mountain Trail.  

When we get to Sugarland Mountain Trail, I’d been struggling with my pack quite a bit.  My right stabilizer strap has decided it would no longer like to stay where it’s pulled and would like to slip all the way back, putting the pack weight squarely on my collar bones.  Thankfully, it’s a short 3.1 miles to the gap from here.  After some gentle downhill grade, we come to Midas Gap and climb our final hill, a steep one!   We get to the top with a celebratory fist bump and begin the short and steep descent back down to the car.  

Once at Fighting Creek Gap, the trailhead for Laurel Falls, we see a ton of people. It was funny to see considering we saw a total of 12 people all weekend before we hit the parking lot.  For my first trip back into the woods, this one was just difficult enough, 18 miles with more uphill than down.  I ended up with three blisters and felt like a newbie, but my surgery toe held up well and is looking good. It was so nice to finally get back into the woods and hang out around a campfire again.