AT Section Hike: Carver’s Gap to Dennis Cove Rd (Kincora Hostel)

P1050680I wish I could say that this hike was filled with sunshiny days and views as far as the eyes can see, in which we posed in front of for group shots (it was the Roan Highlands, after all…), but it wasn’t. The first day was only a short 6 mile hike in, but in the on-the-line freezing temps, rain, sleet, snow, and winds that howled around us, flipping our umbrella’s inside out and nearly knocking us on our butts if we didn’t watch our footings, it made for the longest day of our hike… But, don’t get me wrong, this didn’t necessarily make the hike a bad hike either… just had a few obstacles to overcome…

Bob Peeples (from Kincora Hostel) shuttled our group from his place on Dennis Cove Rd (~0.2 miles west of the AT) to Carver’s Gap, where we would start our hike back to his place, 4o miles north via the trail. After stopping at a McD’s for a quick breakfast (and almost leaving Jeff behind…), we arrived at Carver’s Gap around 9:30 on Thursday morning, crawled out of Bob’s truck, and immediately began pulling the hoods on our rain jackets/ponchos over our heads. We had already dressed our backpacks in their pack covers before leaving Kincora that morning, so we quickly slung them over our shoulders and Dave & I popped open our umbrellas to try to stay as dry as possible… After a quick thank you and a handshake with Bob, we began climbing up Round Bald in the freezing, wet conditions…

The trail starts out by heading up an open field, but quickly squiggles around and into a wooded area. For once on the AT, we were happy to be in the wooded area as we were somewhat sheltered from the elements and were able to make adjustments to our rain gear. After we all got situated, we continued on… 

After making our way over Round Bald and then hiking down the other side, we met a hiker heading SOBO, and as it turns out, it was a hiker named David that I had spoken with a couple of days before on the phone. He happened to be in the area, so headed out for an overnight trip from Carver’s Gap to US19, however, due to a late start and the storm that moved in overnight, he had decided to turn back. Due to the weather conditions, we didn’t stand around talking as much as I would have liked, so he quickly used one of our phones to call his wife and let her know to pick him up back at Carver’s Gap rather than US19. After this, we said goodbye, then continued on in our own directions.

After Round Bald, we then summited Jane Bald, and a bald with the trail leading to Grassy Ridge Bald. After this point, we eventually headed back into the wooded area, where we would spend the rest of the day hiking. Due to the weather conditions, I didn’t really get a lot of video or photo’s through this area…

P1050500 P1050502 P1050503 P1050505Being that it was only 6 miles to our destination for the night, and the given weather conditions, we hiked on pretty fast to Overmountain Shelter. Unfortunately, there weren’t any views to be had, and we were just ready to get out of the weather.

P1050525When we arrived, we headed straight upstairs and found that we had the place all to ourselves. We immediately began spreading out our stuff and hoping that it would dry out; however, with all of the fog blowing through, and the cold temperatures, we had little hope. So, the best that we could do was to get out of our wet clothes, and into some dry clothes. We also decided to set outs tents up inside the shelter, and after getting settled in, I crawled into my down sleeping bag to warm up, and then put on some water to make a delicious hot Chai Tea Latte’.

P1050510 P1050515 P1050513 P1050509While getting sorted out, a few other hikers showed up:

  • A NOBO thru hiker by the name of “OC” but he didn’t stick around long… he was trying to make it to a mail drop, so was hiking about 31 miles that day (in that crappy weather…) He still had another 18 miles to go and it was already around 2 pm…
  • A guy and a girl who had thru hiked the AT last year (2014) and was out again for a leisurely week-long hike with their dog. They ended up setting up their tent in another corner of the shelter.
  • A NOBO thru hiker named “Stretch”, which has come all the way from Israel to complete his thru hike! He also ended up setting up his tent in the shelter.
  • A mom and son by the name of “Mother Nature” and “In-Between, from Germany, also thru hiking the trail NOBO. They were the last to arrive for the evening, and decided to simply throw out their pads and sleeping bags next to another wall in the shelter.

We spent the rest of the evening just hanging out inside the big red barn, away from the weather outside, just talking and having a good time. Some time during the evening, the weather did clear our somewhat so we were able to get a few good views, but only momentarily. After eating our dinners, night came along, and we all started dozing off…

P1050522 P1050527 P1050528 P1050531At sunset the night before, the temperature inside the barn was 32 F, however, when we woke up the next morning, the temperature had jumped all the way up to 44 F! The wind had calmed down throughout the night, and while the rain was still there, it wasn’t as bad as it was the day before. Knowing that we had a big day ahead of us, we all ate breakfast and packed up rather quickly so that we could get on the trail…

We had 2 good climbs on this day. The first was immediately after leaving Overmountain Shelter, heading up Little Hump. The last time I had been through this section, the views were simply amazing, but on this day, there were no views to be had. But, that doesn’t mean it was boring… instead, we were greeted with an entirely different presence, wind and fog. And in its own right, it was down right awesome!

P1050533 P1050535 P1050536 P1050537 P1050538 P1050539 P1050540The next climb was up Big Hump, which was the one memorable climb from the last time I had come through this section. However, I felt like it was so tough because I could see it/the top the entire time, and it didn’t look that bad… This time I found that it was much easier than last time, but, due to the heavy fog, we could only see about 20 foot in front of us (maybe this is why it seemed easier). We stopped only once heading up, and I just knew we still had a long way to go, however, after continuing back up, within a minute I found myself standing at the wooden fence we had to climb over. This meant that the steepest part of the climb was over, although, there was still a little ways to go to the top…

IMG_1246I continued to push on and made it to the top before the others. This allowed me to be able to video them all reaching the summit though, which looked cool because they just appeared out of the fog (as seen in the video above). Once we all made it to the top, we took a moment to rejoice, but then kept moving, we still had a long way to go for the day…

P1050542 P1050544It was pretty much all downhill from the top of Big Hump to US19, and we used that to our advantage. The weather remained dreary, so we kept moving along at a steady pace. Before we knew it, we had reached Doll Flats, which is a large open area and has a pretty big camping area where the trail enters the woods on the other side. This (as I understand it) is also where the trail leaves North Carolina for the last time (which means I have actually had 2 states done for a while now, GA & NC!)

P1050545 P1050548From here it was only 3 miles to US19, and as seen in the photo above, the weather was still a bit dreary. We had actually talked about alternate plans once we got to US19, but decided that we would wait until we actually got there to make any decisions… So we pushed on. The trail was still pretty much all down hill, and we made pretty quick work of it…

P1050560We arrived at US19 sometime around noon (or a little later), and surprisingly the weather had cleared up. Sure, there were still clouds in the sky, and almost a drizzle in the air, but it looked like the sun was trying to (but not actually) shining through! So, we made the decision… LET’S KEEP GOING! So, we did…

And almost immediately, climbing out of the gap at US19, the rain started… but we had made our choice. Besides, according to the weather forecasts, it was supposed to start clearing up the next day. However, we still had a decision to make… We originally planed to make this a 15+ mile day and stay at the Elk River Campsite, but knew that we could push on to make it an 18+ mile day and stay at Mountaineer Falls Shelter, pending weather conditions. And as it seemed, the weather was getting worse the farther we moved from US19…

P1050562 P1050563All morning I had left my umbrella in my pack. The misting was enough to eventually soak me, but I knew the umbrella would be pointless in this type of weather. But once the rain started, I (and Dave) decided to pull our brollie’s back out. It seemed to be good timing too. While I didn’t dry out completely, I will say that my head and shoulder area did dry out for the most part being protected under the umbrella.

P1050578 P1050579After a few more miles, and up the last real climb of the day, we began descending the other side of an unnamed (?) mountain. Next thing I knew, we were standing next to a fenced in graveyard! I can’t say that this was the only graveyard that I have found myself next to on the trail (we found ourselves camped next to a much smaller one on a recent hike), but it certainly is unexpected. Anyway, the trail skirted around the fence and eventually dumped us out on a road crossing, which them made sense… there was a church right across the road.

P1050581 P1050584 P1050586After a couple of (paved) road crossings, we were just a short way from the Elk River Campsite, so we made it there in quick time. When we arrived though, it was an easy decision to continue and push on to the shelter. The weather was still less than ideal, and it was still rather early in the afternoon, so we continued on another 2.8 miles.

P1050587We followed the Elk River for a little ways down the trail, but eventually the trail led away from the river. (I was hoping the trail would follow the river for a bit longer… this was the first big river that the trail actually followed, and I love this setting.) Maybe an hour later or so though, we found ourselves standing next to the Mountaineer Falls waterfall, and it was beautiful!

P1050588 P1050590 P1050598Looking at our maps, we also found that the shelter was only listed at being 0.1 miles farther down the trail, so after a minute or 2 at the falls, we decided to push on to the shelter. It has been a long day and we were looking forward to dropping out packs and getting somewhere dry!

P1050616The shelter may have been closer to 0.2 miles up the trail, but either way, it was close, and it was worth the extra little push to get there! The shelter was very nice, and we found that at the moment, it was all ours! It is listed to sleep 14, so has an upper and a lower bunk, however, after Blake climbed to the top bunk, he also found that there was a smaller, third level! And it had an occupant…

IMG_1247Anyway, we started claiming spots in the shelter, and laying our stuff out. One of the others also decided to go ahead and collect water, and when returning informed us all that the water source was excellent, and located right on top of the falls that we were standing below us earlier. After getting my stuff all laid out, I followed Blake down the trail to collect my own water, and found that it was indeed both, a great source, and an awesome place to collect if from! Later that day I also returned and washed my face off in the frigid cold mountain water… it was refreshing!

A little later, Stretch showed up, followed by Mother Nature and In-Between! We had last seen them at US19 and thought that they were heading towards Mountain Harbour Hostel for the day/night, but here they were! It was nice getting to see them again and hanging out with them again for the night. So, they also claimed a few spots on the upper level and we all began settling in for the night.

P1050605The next morning was still a little hazy looking, but it looked times more promising than the 2 previous mornings. This made us glad that we decided to continue on at US19 rather than going with alternate plans… Anyway, since we pushed on a bit father the day before, we now only had a 10 mile day planned, so we didn’t rush to get up out of our warm sleeping bags (although, the temps were still only in the lower 40’s, so not terribly cold). Of course, Stretch, Mother Nature & In-Between were on a different journey, so they were up and ready before we were. Before leaving I managed to snag a picture of them before wishing them good luck on the rest of their adventure!

P1050612 P1050613Blake had gotten packed up first, so he decided to head on out. I followed behind him shortly after, shooting some video, and Dave, Thomas & Jeff followed out sometime soon after behind me.

Most of the third day was essentially uphill, however, it was nothing steep. It was more of a sawtooth profile, with a slight, constant, uphill slope. There was a good bit of stream crossings throughout the day, mostly which had small wooden bridges with wire grates on the top to make crossing over them easy and quick (thanks to all the volunteers that make this possible!)

P1050618After a couple of miles in, just past the Walnut Mtn Rd crossing, we had all caught back up with each other and found that I had reception on my phone, so we took turns calling wives to let them know all was good (no reception the night before, so we needed to check in). While standing here though, we picked up 2 new hikers… Big Boy (AKA: Blue) and Little Boy (AKA: red)… Shortly after this, we also came upon our first, really good view, and felt the sunshine actually shining down on our faces!

P1050621 P1050622 P1050626 P1050624 P1050625After taking in the views, and making use of the random, well placed bench on the side of the trail, we continued on. Just pas this awesome view, we came across another, somewhat random, piece of information…

P1050629We continued down the trail… in no real hurry. Our destination was close, and the day was beautiful. We took our time, and stopped at random places along the trail that looked inviting. It was indeed a great day to be on the trail!

P1050631 P1050634 P1050648 P1050658Eventually, we stumbled upon the Hardcore Cascades, and wow, it was awesome! Such a beautiful display on such a beautiful day… We ended up pulling off our packs for a bit, taking pics, collecting more water, and enjoying the sounds and the views…

P1050659 P1050666 P1050668 P1050669 P1050672After a nice little break, we eventually pulled our packs on and slowly began making our way down/up the trail. Red and Blue were still amongst us… We began wondering who they belonged to as they didn’t seem to be too interested in going back. Although, there were a few times one would run off somewhere in the woods and eventually begin howling, at which time the other would run off to find the other. Next thing we knew though, about 30 or 45 minutes later, they would be right on our heels again, trotting down the trail… Sometime later, we came to a random campsite on the side of the trail… To keep true to our pace, we pulled over and pulled our packs off, and just chilled out for a bit…

P1050673 P1050674 P1050676From here, we only had about 1.7 miles left to reach the Moreland Gap Shelter, and even though we were staying at the shelter, we had all decided to pitch our tents for our last night out. So, we finally lifted ourselves from the ground, hauled our packs back on and made quick work of the last stretch before getting to our final destination for the night. On the way though, we found a nice little rock outcrop in which we set up the camera on a tripod and tried to squeeze in some group shots. As well, there was a cell tower directly in front of us, so I took this opportunity to actually make a FaceTime call to the wife and kids!

P1050680 P1050682Shortly after, we were at the shelter for the night. It was still relatively early in the evening, and we found the shelter to be empty. Stretch, Mother Nature and In-Between were pushing on to Kincora Hostel for the night, so we no longer saw them. So, we pulled our packs off and started looking for the perfect spot to pitch our own tents while Red & Blue continued to run around…

P1050687 P1050697 P1050699 P1050686 P1050691 P1050692 P1050693After we got our packs unpacked, and our shelters pitched, some began collecting firewood, and others began making their way down the steep hill to get water. As I was walking off, a couple with a dog was hiking by headed SOBO. After collecting water and making my way back to camp, I learned that the couple were out for a day hike, and my tent was only half erected! Obviously, as the couple was hiking down, either Red or Blue made a dash right through my front guy line… After a bit of searching, Jeff spotted the 8″ Easton Nana Stake (I had just bought) and I was able to reset my shelter.In the midst, I also came across a broken Mini GroundHog stake…

P1050690As night drew near, we began cooking our last dinners, and then getting a fire started. I found the shelter log in the shelter and found where Stretch and Mother Nature wrote in it when they came through earlier that day, which was cool to see. It was a nice night, and was a great day. We sat around the fire and watched it burn, each of us casually throwing in more wood, or stoking the coals. We talked about the events of the hike up to that moment, and of course, discussed the food (and beer) that we were looking forward to getting on the next day… Once “hikers midnight” was upon us, we each began retreating to our own shelters for the last night…

P1050703 P1050704 P1050706 P1050713 P1050714 P1050716The next morning came early. We only had 6 miles to cover by foot, but I had about 450 miles to cover by car, not to mention the food and beers we had to seek out on the return trip home! So, we got packed up and were on the trail just after 8 am! But first, I had to get a shot of all the Arc Blast Backpacks!

P1050719 P1050720 P1050721(From L to R: my 60L Arc Blast, Dave’s 52L Arc Blast, and Blake’s 60L Arc Blast.)

Then we got going…

The hike out wasn’t too bad. There were 2 small climbs, and then the rest was mostly down hill. The skies were a little overcast again, but on occasion it looked like the sun tried to poke its head out for a bit. There were also a few rock outcrops that allowed for a few nice views along the way too which was nice. After about 3 miles, we came to the base of White Rock Mountain and stopped for a minute before the last climb up.

P1050722 P1050724 The rest of the hike was a pleasant stroll, mostly down hill. It didn’t take us very long, and while we were taking in the scenery and trying to relish the last little bit of time we had on the trail, the thought of the long drive home, and then the immediate back to work schedule lingered on my mind… bummer…

P1050726 P1050727 P1050731As in most cases, we could hear the road well before we saw it, so we knew we were almost done. The trail dumped us out into another large field with a dilapidated barn in the distance. We stopped here for a moment and just took in the view, and watched as Red & Blue romped around in the field. We had called the number on their tags the night before, but funny enough, we were all pretty much referring to the dogs as “ours.”

P1050732 P1050734We continued following the trail north, and found that the trail wound right around the other side of the barn. Up close and personal, we say that it truly was in bad shape… It would have to be a very bad situation for one to hold up inside it, and especially so since the road was almost within our sights at this point.

P1050735 P1050737Just a few more steps NOBO and we were standing on the pavement called Denis Cove Rd. There is a large parking area on the north side of the road, and it was full! There were folks all over the place. This is where we were the recipients of true trail magic… A dad walked up to us with a box of still warm, Krispy Kreme doughnuts! We dug in, and even shared them with Red & Blue!

P1050738 P1050739 IMG_1288After devouring the doughnuts, we hiked the short distance up Dennis Cove Rd (really, it’s just around the curve seen in the doughnut picture above) back to our cars, parked at the Kincora Hostel. Once here, we tossed our packs into our vehicles, changed into some fresh clothes (like that helped… but it felt better!) and then said our good byes, and set out in our own directions…

This was a really great trip. To be honest, the first day we hiked in likely some of the worst weather to be hiking in, and the second day, while better, was still kind of crappy. On the third day, things cleared up, and the last day was nice enough. Besides the weather though, it was great to meet up with the others for the hike. I have hiked with both Dave & Thomas on a previous hike, but it has been a long while, and I was happy to get to hike with them again. As well, I have hiked with Blake a couple of times now, and it was really great that I got to meet up with him only 2 hours from my house and gave me some company on the 8 hour drive! This was the first time I actually met Jeff, but it was great to get to meet him. We had talked in the past, and he was even supposed to make it on a previous trip, but had to pull out at the last moment as his son was pretty sick and he needed to be there for him. However, both he & I have a lot of things in common being as we are both in the medical field, and as it turned out, he & Blake practically knew each other for a long time… So, while the weather wasn’t the best, it was great to be on the trail, and even better to be accompanied by so many other great folks!

Not only this, but I got to add another 25 miles of unhiked trail to my check off list! The trip was 40 miles in total, however, I had already hiked the 15 miles from Carver’s Gap to US19, but from there to Dennis Cove, I had never hiked. So, I am slowly sectioning my way to Maine I guess… which is good by me too!

Also, be sure to check out Jeff’s account of our hike over on his blog, JBensBlog, by clicking HERE.

So, thanks again to my fellow hikers for joining me on this trip, and thanks to you, the reader for coming along as well! Until next time…

~Stick~

Just figured I would add this “bonus” video in here at the end. On the third morning, at Mountaineer Falls Shelter, I turned the camera on while I was heating water for coffee. Then of course, there is some random talking between Thomas, Dave & myself…

I should also warn you, there is one “bad” word at the 4:29 mark…

About Stick

My blog is essentially a record of my hiking career. Through it, I, and others, can see how I have evolved from a heavy weight backpacker, to a smarter, more efficient, lightweight backpacker. Through the use of video, still photos, and of course writing, one can see my progression, as well as check out some of the places I hike, and not to mention some cool, lightweight gear options. For me, my blog is a journal, but for others, I hope that it is an interactive learning tool to aid them in their own progression towards lightweight backpacking.
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11 Responses to AT Section Hike: Carver’s Gap to Dennis Cove Rd (Kincora Hostel)

  1. Pingback: 2014 Montbell Down Hugger 800 #3 Sleeping Bag Review | Stick's Blog

  2. Pingback: Exped SynMat UL7 Sleeping Pad Review | Stick's Blog

  3. Pingback: AT Hike | Carver’s Gap to Kincora Hostel:: March 17-22, 2015 | jBensBlog

  4. David Byrge says:

    Stick,

    Enjoyed your adventure as always! Thanks for taking us along on your journey.

    Like

  5. thejaydub says:

    This was a great report. Pics were great, vids were good. Your best yet, I’d say.

    Well done. I’ve always wanted to go to Overmountain Shelter.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Thank Jay! And you should definitely do the section through here, and of course be sure to stop off at the Overmountain shelter too. But, if the weather is nice, I suggest camping at the shelter as opposed to staying inside it…

      ~Stick~

      Like

  6. Allen Bishop says:

    Stick, wonderful report and loved the vid’s!! Looked like a great time, nice easy pace for a weekend. Keep up the blog when you can, you have a naturalness with it. Peace

    Like

  7. Silky says:

    Stick – I have this same trip planned in May. Thanks for the pre-trip look at what I’ll be seeing … although, I hope to have better weather.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      That sounds great Silky! Hopefully you will have much better weather than we did. Also, for a better look at the landscape (if you haven’t already been there), be sure to check out the link in my text to a hike we did a couple of years ago. We had much better weather conditions, so I have better pics, with actual views…

      Enjoy your hike,

      ~Stick~

      Like

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