Mile 44.2, 17.1 miles
As I watched the sunrise from the Girl Scout Benches, the sky streaked with brightening layers of blue, gold, and orange hues, I marveled at one of the most beautiful sunrises I have seen on any trail I have hiked. Thick blankets of clouds rested in the valley below me, and as the sun slowly rose above the deep blue and purple hills, a peace born of wonder pushed all thoughts from my mind, and I felt the world around me.
Leaves rustled softly, and the sleepy chirp of waking birds began to fill the air. I loved to wake up with the rest of life and experience these brief one-time moments.
The hike down to Whitewater River was long and moderate, with a few switchbacks and long wooden steps taking you down to the river. Once at the river, I climbed up and over a large boulder to get to the footbridge over the river. This was a fast-moving river with beautiful views, and I had it all to myself.
The hiking was strenuous today. There was a lot of steep climbing, and I saw no other hikers. Climbing was also made aggravating by spider webs. This is where other hikers on the trail ahead of you come in handy.
By the end of the first day of the hike, I was only using one hiking pole for hiking. The other pole was a windshield wiper. The spider webs were horrible, and the spiders fought back on day three!
I could not always see the webs until they were plastered across my face, and in one case, the spider dropped down to my bicep to take a nip before I slung him and his mangled web into the woods. The bite hurt like hell, and within an hour, I had a large black and blue lump on the inside of my arm. I had no idea a spider bite could hurt that much.
I passed through the “forbidden campsite” on the other side of the river, and based on the amount of garbage and toilet paper, nobody paid much attention to the camping restrictions. I guess it was probably kids or locals since most backpackers and thru-hikers I know respect the land they hike through.
The trail followed Whitewater River for a few miles before climbing up, over, and back down to Thompson River. The trail took a sharp turn and climbed steeply up to Line Rock Gap before plunging straight back down to Bear Camp Creek.
Like many other parts of the trail, this plunge down was engineered with steep flights of stairs. Between the stairs and bridges, the foothill trail must be one of the most maintained and engineered trails in this part of the country. The climbing was tough, but I always felt very secure.
The climb into and out of Horsepasture River was an excellent example of the staircases and bridges found throughout this trail. I climbed straight down and across an elaborate footbridge before climbing straight back up and over the next mountain to Bear Gap Campsite. At this point, my butt had begun to ache.
Unfortunately, the campsite had TP and wipes scattered about, so I hiked about a half mile further and took a snack break. I only had about a mile and a half to where I hoped to camp for the night and was in no hurry.
My camp for the night was at a site on what looked like an ancient logging road. I pushed through some laurel and into a well-sheltered campsite that did not look like it was used often. This was probably because there was no water source nearby. It was a lovely, clean campsite with room for about 4-5 tents.
This would be one of my favorite camping spots on this trip, and going forward, I targeted dry campsites with no water sources since they drew fewer people. I would much rather carry an extra liter of water than sleep amidst TP flowers.