I finished up a small section of Appalachian Trail that I had not completed before, covering the Iron Mountain ridgeline from TN91 to Wilburn Dam Road. This was a southbound 16 mile hike, spending one night.
About 3 miles into the hike my first stop was the Nick Grindstaff Monument. This is very eerie place with a unique story…
Nick Grindstaff was born in 1851. At the age of three he was orphaned. Rumor has it that he later moved out west where he was robbed and severely beaten, along with suffering other financial difficulties. He soon returned to Tennessee where he lived out the final 45 years of his life in total solitude (except for his dog “Panter”) in a very small cabin on Iron Mountain. Supposedly, in 1923 a man went to visit Nick and found him dead in his cabin. Some stories say that Panter watched over Nick’s dead body for days and had to be overpowered and tied to a tree so that his body could be buried. Other stories say that Panter had to be killed and was buried alongside Nick in the chimney-shaped grave, which was once his cabin’s brick fireplace. To this day many hikers that camp near this area report the spine-chilling howls of a dog late at night. A few years ago I also had a scary encounter with dog near this very spot.
After taking some photos (low quality is due to shots taken with only my iPhone) and after eating some lunch I continued southbound, which from this point was all “new” A.T. for me. It was some of the easier hiking that I’ve done on the A.T. with gentle climbs and descents. Basically, this entire hike simply stays on top of the ridgeline. Views were beautiful, but this hike would be even more spectacular in the winter months without the leaves on the trees.
Eventually I passed by Iron Mountain Shelter, where I resupplied some of my water. Then at about the eight mile mark (which was the midway point of this trip) I found a nice campsite in a gap. There was also a nice spring there about 100 yards off the trail. I had a good fire and a good night.
The next day I continued southbound, and I feel I had even better views on this day as much of the forest on my left began to open up over Watauga Lake. I also had a rush of adrenaline after seeing a big black bear in a tree just ahead of me before arriving at Vandeventer Shelter. I stopped there for lunch, which has stunning vistas from just behind the shelter. From there, I descended down to Wilburn Dam Road where I completed my hike. The last couple miles of trail were very nice following a recent relocation by the Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club, with lots of new switchbacks and wide trail. Weather was perfect. It was a good trip.