Left: The view along this old-and-new Appalachian Trail hike. Right: Gail and Cookie.
Andy Layne Trail to Appalachian Trail at Scorched Earth Gap; AT to just north of Lamberts Meadow Shelter; blue-blazed connector trail to AT along Tinker Mountain; AT across Tinker Cliffs back to Andy Layne and down. 10.7 miles.
A new twist for us on a popular and oft-visited trail area: The little-known and little-used connector trail makes for a loop walk that features a great climb, the pretty Lamberts Meadow area, a pleasant trek along the east flank of Tinker Mountain and a few ridge-line rises up to Tinker Cliffs.
We were under mild time constraints for this walk (to get back in time for dinner and a Lyle Lovett concert), which allowed The Greatest Day Hiker Of Them All to strut her stuff a little. Of course the best thing about being TGDHOTA is that she does no such thing; she just walks the way she walks. Which, as usual on the climb up the demanding Andy Layne Trail meant leaving me a ways behind, with dogs Cookie and Fluff turning back now and again to check on my progress.
Which also meant the usual mock-request to shorten the hike: At Scorched Earth Gap, Gail said, ahh, let's just go up to Tinker Cliffs and back down. This as she continued on over the gap to begin the descent to Lamberts Meadow.
The brand new section for us was the connector trail, which at some points is over-blazed, and at others – often where a trail or forest road appears to spur off – lacks blazing where it could use some. Still, it was relatively easy to follow. At one point Gail paused to point out what seemed to us an oddity: an Appalachian Trail marker. We know the AT used to run along North Mountain – across the Catawba Valley from Tinker – years ago, but did not know that it must have also at some time have run along the side of Tinker rather than along its ridge line.
The Day Hiker had her first test of the day along the ridge rises once the blue trail led into The Great White One. At some point, after maybe four knob climbs, she turned back to exclaim, "I'm sick of it!"
Ah, but the rugged rocks of Tinker Cliffs were just over the next rise, and once you spread out lunch and look out onto the valley and the mountains, you understand why you've walked. On this cloudy day, the valley sections were still a rich green, with each section highlighted by a ring of orange-red-and-brown forest.
Heading back down, we came upon a set of four young hikers, also with one white dog and one black dog along. As we drew near, dogs began to interact in full doggie manner – yelping, barking, snapping – and so all dogs got briefly leashed. The Dayhiker, long accustomed to passing everyone on the trail except the occasional thru hiker planning to be in Maine in like three weeks, decided the simple thing would be to just overtake the group as we do all hikers we catch up to, and git on down the trail.
The rest of the way down the mountain, in her second test of the day, she was a little hurried – breaking into the occasional jog for a few steps here and there – and marveling again and again about how the heck the group behind us (with its members somewhere between a third and a half our age) were staying so close.
It was a little more of what makes Gail that Greatest Dayhiker: There was no vanity at all in her perspective; just a walking experience with no real precedent… where are these people from – Mars?
(Turned out, at the bottom of the mountain, they got into a Subaru wagon with North Carolina plates, which affirmed my theory that they were serious hikers, and up here slumming on our l'il 3,000-foot peaks instead of their usual 5-6Kers.)
October 31, 2009