Backpacking Mount Mitchell: when you start at the top, there's nowhere to go but down (and up, and down)

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My sister Laura and I hoisted on our backpacks atop 6,684-foot Mt. Mitchell — the highest point east of the Mississippi River — and lumbered 4.5 miles north along a ridge to a camping spot at Deep Gap. While the hike along the Black Mountain Crest (aka Deep Gap) trail was not horizontally challenging, we did find ourselves navigating a lot of steep vertical change.

Though we were away from "civilization" for only 24 hours, we managed to see a lot:

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The hike took us up and over Mount Craig (at 6,647 feet, the SECOND highest peak east of the Mississippi), Big Tom, Cattail Peak and a place called Potato Hill. 

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One of the highest and most bio-diverse landscapes in North Carolina, Mount Mitchell State Park contains more than 65 rare plant species.

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A couple especially steep spots required the assistance of rope.

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Just past prime, but still pretty.

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Wood like bone.

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Butterfly closed... NBD.

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Butterfly open... WHAT?!?! 

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Translation: sweat the small stuff, not the bears.

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On top of Big Tom, named for Thomas "Big Tom" Wilson, a famous guide and bear hunter who found the body of Dr. Elisha Mitchell in 1857. That's all the plaque said, so that's all I know.

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We managed to not dress in identical outfits on this trip. It's the small victories we celebrate.

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How do you make sure no one sets up a tent right beside yours? Act weird and take up space!

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Success!

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Losing at gin (While optimistic, aiming for a seven-card run is not a winning strategy.)

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The solitaire that followed the gin.

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When epicureans go camping... (Also: Heat-and-serve Tasty Bites are perfect for when your campsite is miles away from a water source.)

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Laura thoroughly enjoyed her insulated mug of jaipur vegetables and jasmine rice. She also thoroughly enjoys this vest.

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The winds blew strong all night, and clouds swirled around the summits we passed over on the hike out in the morning. 

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Lichen on a tree trunk.

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Descent
Descent