We got a ride this morning from a guy named Alpine and his wonderful dog Aspen. He was 45 minutes late because of some crappy hikers before us. Once we got going, he was kind enough to bring us to get some fuel, regale us with tales of photographing Lance Armstrong and other famous bikers and give us our first bit of trail advice: don't bring two cans of fuel for four days. He dropped off the other can at Mountain Crossing for us so we can pick it up in a few days
Ok so onto the approach trail. What a horrible beast. Every one of the six hundred steps seemed to ask "do you really want to do this" (later edit: you may say oh, but surely you were just not ready... true, but every other hiker has also damned those stairs).
* this is a photo from the top looking down at the parking lot where we started. Yikes!
We made it 7.3 miles to Black Mountain Gap shelter and setting up camp was no problem. The trail to get water was steep, but we had to do it because out here water and M&Ms are life.