My 1983 Appalachian Trail Hike in Photos

 

I wrote a ton in words in my journal as I hiked the Appalachian Trail. I also shot a ton of Kodachrome slides in that pre-digital age. I've scanned all my old AT slides and posted them with short text blurbs connecting them to their parts of the story. I'd never tried to connect all these slides with all these words before. It helped me remember details of that long-ago hike in new ways. These pages are a chronological visual journal of the hike. Probably one of the oldest thru-hikes on the Internet to get one.

 

More pics from my 1983 Appalachian Trail hike. Table of Contents is here.

 

Little Hump Mountain, NC / TN - Whitetop Laurel Creek Gorge, VA

Still in Chapter 6 of my Appalachian Trail book, and still June 3, 1983. Still in the Roan Highlands along the North Carolina-Tennessee border.

On both days of my Roan Highlands traverse, I spent more time enjoying the immense panoramas and taking pictures than I spent hiking seriously. I just could not rush through a place like this.

My weather experience for Beauty Spot and the Roan Highlands more than made up for the slightly disappointing day on Big Bald. And not far down the road in southwestern Virginia I saw some amazing blooming rhododendron displays at somewhat lower elevations than the Roan Highlands. Which is a story for Chapter 7, and we're still in Chapter 6 of my book here.

There were unbroken vistas from the trail all along the west slope of Little Hump Mountain to its summit.

Still in Chapter 6 of my Appalachian Trail book, and still June 3, 1983.

Up ahead was Hump Mountain, another stiff but rewarding climb.

The east side of Little Hump Mountain, as I descended into Bradley Gap, was somewhat more overgrown, but still had frequent viewpoints overlooking the trail ahead to the summit of Hump Mountain.

The climb up Hump was a bear, but views from every inch of the trail lightened the load.

Of all of the mountains I had seen thus far on the hike, Hump was now my favorite. Roan had been my previous choice, so it had obviously been a very scenic past couple of days. I named chapter 6, Hump and Groan, after those two wonderful peaks. The fourteen miles of trail between Little Rock Knob and Hump Mountain traversed one of the most superb stretches of scenery I have ever encountered.

Like Round Bald, Jane Bald, and Little Hump, this summit had 360-degree views, but Hump Mountain was much higher, and the panorama extended for miles in every direction. An intricate series of cross chains groped eastward towards the Blue Ridge's long eastern fork, while to the north loomed Virginia and Mount Rogers, its highest peak.

The grassy Highlands rolled southward to Roan Mountain's lofty, forested plateau. Some miles away to the west in Tennessee ran Iron Mountain -- the long, lower range which parallels this western fork of the Blue Ridge. I would be hiking its flat, wooded crest soon.

The weather on June 3 held fair through the entire hike.

Looking back towards Little Hump Mountain.

And further back towards Roan Mountain.

Clouds were starting to move in, the first signs of a less placid night ahead.

Still in Chapter 6 of my book, and still June 3, 1983.

 

Still on Hump Mountain.

I sat on top of Hump Mountain for almost an hour, drinking in views.

Still in Chapter 6 of my book, and still June 3, 1983. Still on Hump Mountain.

 

The climb down was long and very steep. The east slope of Hump was densely forested from a point just below the summit and beyond.

The Appalachian Trail broke out into the clear one last time, one mile later, at a place called Doll Flats. From this large, level meadow were great views southward into North Carolina, and, to the west, one last excellent farewell look at Hump Mountain's summit.

 

From Doll Flats, the Appalachian Trail descended north off of the state line ridge into Tennessee, and I said good-bye to North Carolina as well. Two states down.

 

The trail route, for most of the distance to Don Nelan Shelter, either passed through private lands or followed rural lanes. It crossed a state highway and climbed steeply through high pastures baking under a relentless sun. 

There were great views back towards Roan and Hump Mountains from the tops of several of the fields, but I could not appreciate them fully. I ran out of water and my tissues were dehydrating rapidly along those shade-less stretches.

 

I dragged myself into the shelter at 4:00. Not fifteen minutes after I arrived, a drenching thunderstorm struck and hung around for about a half-hour.

West of the Blue Ridge, the mountains were a big change from those I had traversed previously on this trip. These were like long folds in the land stretching for miles. Their ridge crests tend to be heavily wooded, with nothing resembling a summit peak to break up their flat-topped profiles -- just an occasional wind or water gap cutting through.

 

This was going to take some getting used to after all of the majestic scenery, but the rhododendron was finally in bloom at these lower elevations, and fiery azaleas like these also brightened the mood.

June 5, 1983, a couple of days into this quiet stretch, the Appalachian Trail cut through the hearts of two beach/picnic areas along the shore of Watauga Lake. Hundreds of happy people were playing and relaxing in the sun with friends and loved ones. I felt completely out of place.

Soon, I was on the long, level crest of Iron Mountain, Tennessee.  From that point, although the hiking was fairly easy, the woods continued to be very buggy, and the heat and humidity of the day were slow to abate as the afternoon wore on. The Appalachian Trail followed the ridge with no major climbs or descents.

At around 5:00, after 16 miles of hiking, there was an excellent viewpoint of Watauga Lake and the surrounding valley from a rock outcrop just behind Vanderventer Shelter. I sat on that ledge for a half-hour enjoying the view, chasing away flies, and making sensible excuses to myself about why I could not be awesome today. Then, I stood up, put on my pack, and began walking another seven miles to Iron Mountain Shelter. June 5, 1983.

My last night in Tennessee was a stormy one, and I awoke to fog and drizzle. I left the shelter at 7:40 on June 7 and walked the ten miles of the Appalachian Trail to Damascus, Virginia in less than four hours. It was easy trail, and I was feeling strong and confident. Just as they had yesterday, the miles passed pleasantly and uneventfully. Before I knew it, I came upon a sign marking the boundary of the Jefferson National Forest. Three states were now completed, and I was entering Virginia. The trail gradually descended along the ridge into the green valley where Damascus lay nestled among the mountains. Chapter 6 was ending, Chapter 7 lay ahead.

Chapter 7 of my book, which you can read here. Leaving my first Virginia trail town the next afternoon with a full pack of supplies was, as usual, no fun, but the AT out of Damascus was excellently graded and maintained. Rhododendron and mountain laurel along the trail were just beginning to bloom. Although my heart was not in the effort, I managed to grind out seven miles before coming upon a lovely site in the gorge of Whitetop Laurel Creek which I simply could not pass by.

 

June 8, 1983.

June 9, 1983. After a climb to the long, wooded crest of Straights Mountain, the Appalachian Trail returned to Whitetop Laurel Creek gorge, joined an old railroad grade known as the Virginia Creeper, and followed the creek through green forests and masses of flowering rhododendron.

That was where I had my encounter with this fearsome beast, which you can also read about here. Also part of the June 9 entry.

I'm still not done. More AT pics here.