|Plaque atop Siler Bald: elevation 5,126 feet|
We drove a little bit further for this hike however, about an hour and a half to Route 64 just outside of Franklin, NC. As we wound our way further into the mountains, the rocky layers doubled and tripled and when afforded the unusual straightaway, loomed larger in the distance. Within the mountain trees, the yellowing leaves took on a deeper shade of gold and red began to pop from amidst the dull green foliage. With each mile we were driving further into fall. After driving "over the mountain" as the directions suggested, Emily and I reached Winding Stair Gap, at 3820 feet, where we would meet Robin.
Once out of the car, the wind was brisk and blowing and the sun that had alighted us the whole way was suddenly swallowed behind a low ceiling of thick clouds. I remembered this gap well from my thru-hike. My father and I had hiked out of Franklin after staying 2 nights at the Budget Inn. We were both still soft-footed hikers having only been on the trail a few weeks at this point in the journey. It had been bitter cold on that late afternoon as we'd hiked just a mile or two up trail and it began to snow. It had been beautiful, but I remember carrying the weight of our trepidation as we'd climbed higher towards the shelter, wondering just how many of those lovely snowflakes we'd watch fall. Clearly this gap is known for its weather.
|Climbing the side trail off of the AT to Siler Bald - check out that Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)!|
|Yarrow (Achillea millefolim)|
|Cresting the top of Siler Bald|
|View from atop Siler Bald|
|Emily and Robin heading back down the trail to Winding Stair Gap|