Weekly Wrap-Up: Week 2

A couple of people asked why I hadn’t included my week in last week’s wrap-up, so from now on I will. Let it be known that “miles hiked” will always be 0.   ~Karen

March 23 – 29

Miles Hiked: 75

  • Weekly Average: 10.7/day
  • Total: 144
  • Overall Average: 10.3/day

Money Spent: $553

  • Gear: $247
  • Food/Lodging: $149
  • Supplies: $35
  • Postage: $83
  • Permits: $40

Highlight of the Week

Jerry: Crossing the NC state line after a big climb and seeing the most photographed tree on the AT.

Bennett: Arriving in the NOC to sit down to a delicious hamburger lunch with Bison, Kozi, Inflammable, Nick and Buzz. Just hanging out at the NOC with all them and enjoying the company of these people we’ve really gotten to know over the last weeks was awesome.

Karen: Celebrating Carson’s 18th birthday.

Lowlight of the Week

Jerry: Having a blister on the end of my toe become infected, and it still is.

Bennett: Having an awesome hike through the snow down into Franklin then getting really upset for no reason. Think the mix of FaceTiming everyone back home and having Mother Goose seriously judge me with her tone when I said I don’t have a trail name yet just made me have my first trail breakdown.

Karen: Unintentionally upsetting Bennett when she was already having a rough day on the trail.

Memory of the Week

Jerry: The evening spent around the Wayah Bald shelter, with a great campfire and friends trading stories about others on the trail. My morale was up!

Bennett: LOVED the service at Outdoor76. They fitted me for new trail runners and taught me all about my feet and different types of shoes. Turns out, I’ve been wearing too-small shoes (size 8.5) for forever; I have narrow feet, not wide feet like I thought; and I have super short toes. So now I have an awesome pair of Brooks Cascadia size 41 (9.5) trail runners with insoles I’m loving.

Karen: Watching the lacrosse team’s joy at beating their arch-rivals in a tough game, after which the announcer called Carson to the stands, where she got asked to the prom.


Days 13 and 14

Day 13

We slept in until 8:30 this morning, up the hill from the Wesser Bald shelter. It was cold, and there was still snow on the ground. I was slow packing up, but we got going by 9:15. We had six miles to go, mostly downhill, so we decided to keep our normal pace. We made good time, except for me dropping a glove accidentally and having to go back 500 feet to retrieve it.

We got to the jump-off rocks and took in the view. From then on, it was almost all downhill across icy snow, rocks, and roots. We tend to move quickly downhill, so we passed 90% of those who had been at the shelter with us.

Week_2_brownieWe cruised into the Nantahala Outdoor Center with Inflammable and headed straight to the River’s End Restaurant for one of their famous burgers. The Wesser burger was so good, with cheese, bacon, and fixings, and the French fries were hot and welcome. I even had my favorite beer, Sweetwater 420!

I topped off my lunch with the Brownie Supreme for dessert, which had two large brownies, two scoops of vanilla ice cream, and whipped cream. Inflammable had also ordered one, so when the first one came with four spoons, we thought that both orders were on one plate. Then the second one showed up, so we knew we were in for a big treat.

During lunch, the crowd at the table grew as Nick, Bison, and Kozi joined us. Everyone admired our desserts. After lunch, we shopped at the NOC Outfitters for a few camping/hiking needs, like a carabiner for my Crocs and a replacement spork, though I found mine later. We got trail food at the Wesser General Store while we did a load of coin-operated laundry.
While discussing with Bison’ and Kozi what to do for our lodging, the NOC site manager overheard and suggested that we could camp down the Nantahala River on the railroad’s property. Bennett and I printed our Smoky Mountain permits and headed downriver.

We set up our camp and made dinner. After cleaning up and hanging a bear bag, we headed back toward the NOC to check out the hostel accommodations. On the way we directed Kozi and Bison back to our campsite. The hostel is high above the NOC, and we didn’t see much.

We went to the River’s End Restaurant for beers and fries. Kozi came in for two beers and a dessert to take back to the campsite. We followed her back, collecting wood along the way. We ended the evening around a fire for a couple of hours. Bison is funny and kept the conversation going and our spirits high.

Day 14

It had rained a lot overnight, so our flies and tarps were wet. We got up, packed, and heated water for oatmeal, coffee, and hot chocolate. We left before Kozi and Bison, got water in the bathroom, returned the spork to the outfitters, and stopped by the general store for a couple of Pasta Sides and Snickers.

We crossed the river again and headed up the AT. I pulled off a layer immediately. We climbed 3000 feet in six miles plus pouring rain and heavy wind. Once we reached the Sassafras Gap shelter at seven miles, we wet rats decided to see if there was space at the shelter. They were expecting 60 mph wind that night and more rain, so when we found out there was space, we grabbed two spots on the left wall.

ShelterDay14There were eleven in the shelter by 12:30. We changed into warm dry clothes, and Bennett took a nap while I caught up on two days of logs. It will be chillier tonight in the shelter than my tent, but we are dry.

The wind was really blowing over the ridge above us. We cooked Pasta Sides, combining chicken with beef stroganoff. It wasn’t bad. There are no bear cables at this shelter, as is the case with half of the NC shelters. We are now turning in at 7:30 pm with idle talk in the sleeping bags. The older hiker in the shelter, Time To Eat, really wants to sleep.

We plan to go 15 miles to another shelter tomorrow, but we’ll sleep in our tent and hammock to dry them out from last night.

Day 12

Day 12

Day 12-1After a “high morale” campfire last night, we woke up later this morning to frozen ground and snow still around. I packed slowly today due to changing clothes in the cold. Bennett got the bear bags down and had hot water by the time I had finished packing. Someone had started the fire again, so we sat around it eating and joking.

We hit the trail later this morning at 9:30. We made good time with lots of hills to climb. We reached Tellico Gap at 14:30 and it was warm with open skies above the roadway and power lines. I did some foot repair, and we helped ourselves to water jugs from trail angels to refill by.

We climbed a lot, then descended into the Wesser Bald shelter, right past the water source. We snacked early and made cheese quesadillas pre dinner. We were set up near the trail, so we saw several folks we know hiking by to get to the Nantahala Outdoor Center.

We decided to wait until tomorrow to do the last 5.5 miles downhill. It will be raining, so we plan to stay near the NOC for the evening. There is a 7 mile climb the next day away from the Nantahala River.

Several of us — including Bison, Inflammable, and another — went back .8 miles to the Wesser Bald observation tower to view the sunset, but the incoming cloud cover blocked it. We came back down and sat around the fire for about 30 minutes before going to bed.

Day 11

Day 11

After a restful multiple-shower stay at Ron Haven’s Sapphire Inn, we were treated to a free pancake and bacon breakfast at the First Baptist Church of Franklin, where we’d been shuttled in church vans. The parishioners made us feel very welcome. We had a bible reading during breakfast and signed the Class of 2014 wall poster. They have been doing this for thru-hikers for eight years, and the Nantahala AT Club was there to present a thank you check to the church for their support. I had great catch up discussions with many thru hikers that I hadn’t seen for a few days.

Afterwards, we checked out of the hotel and joined the other thru hikers waiting for the 9:00 Ron Haven shuttle back to the trail. The hotel manager informed us that due to icing we would not be able to get back to Rock Gap, where we’d been picked up the day before. Bennett and I discussed our options and decided to get taken back to Winding Stair Gap with everyone else and “slack pack” — hike the Day 113 miles south to Rock Gap without our packs and then back to them at Winding Stair Gap to cover the section we would otherwise have missed.

Once Ron showed up with the tourist bus, we asked him if it really was not possible to get to Rock Gap. His answer was abrupt, and he said that we’d need to ride there with some other service. It then occurred to us that he was unaware that we had returned to the Sapphire and checked in on our own. The other thru hikers loading into the bus vouched overwhelmingly for us having stayed in the hotel, so Ron said he’d try to get us to Rock Gap.

After dropping the other 20 or so hikers at Winding Stair Gap, Ron successfully took us around to Rock Gap. We saw Ben, who we hadn’t seen since the first night at Hawk Mountain shelter, waiting to be picked up. We said our goodbyes and headed out on what would be a 15 mile day of hiking through up to a foot of snow.  This was exactly what the salesman at Outdoor 76 said not to do again until later on in Virginia. The snow really slowed us down sometimes, and I slipped and fell on my butt for the first time on the trail.

Otherwise, I did pretty well, but the comfortable evening in the hotel did affect my pace on this long mileage day. We reached Wayah Bald Lookout Tower late in the afternoon. We enjoyed the warm sun and view from the tower area and met a nice Wayah Lookoutyoung man section hiking to prepare for the PTC Trail out west. After a few pictures, we headed the last mile downhill to the Wayah Bald shelter.

There we saw some familiar faces from the bus that morning. There were six in the shelter, about 20 others spread out in flat, snow-cleared tent spaces, and a few in hammocks. For the first night, Bennett and I were forced to not be tented and hammocked next to each other. Since we had arrived fairly early compared to most hikers, I was able to grab a clear semi flat site for my tent.

After setting up, Bennett cooked Ramen with tuna for us. Water was a long way off again, so we made due for dinner from our trail supply and got water later for cleaning dishes and the next day. We also had a hard time hanging our food bear bags tonight, since there were no cables.

We spent a few hours with a dozen other hikers around the fire talking about our experiences of the day, food, Alabama Guy, who caught up with us today, and the plans for getting to the NOC during the next couple of days with rain coming soon.

I helped Bennett get settled into her hammock and turned in at 22:30 to write this blog entry. Good night.

Day 10

Day 10

Two a.m. and I heard the sound of snow falling on the flies and tarps in the snowy campBetty Creek campsite. I double checked that my gear was staying  dry, then went back to sleep and woke to an inch of snow around us. We skipped heating our breakfast and spent the time knocking snow off our covers and packing up while we snacked.

We hit the trail for Hwy 64 and Franklin, NC, 12 miles away. I had problems getting my footing initially across the snowy roots and rocks, but once the pace was determined, we knocked out the 4.5 miles to Albert Mountain. The last 100 foot climb was like climbing rocks, complicated by the slick snow cover.

The top of the mountain marked 100 miles of hiking. We climbed the Albert Mountain fire tower on top and took pictures of the cloudy, snowy scene. Several thru hikers arrived about the same time, including Stealth. We headed down the easy north side of the mountain and made great time during the next 2.5 miles to Long Branch shelter. Bennett Albert Mtnwas well ahead and went all of the way straight to the shelter. I waited at the right turn on the AT for her to return.

We hiked 3.5 more miles to the Rock Gap shelter, where we had lunch. After lunch, we headed down to Wallace Gap where we found Stealth and Inflammable loading their gear into a Suburban. We went over and found out they were being shuttled into Franklin by Ron Haven. We quickly made a decision to not hike the last 3 miles to Winging Stair Gap but to get into the Ron Haven Suburban.

On the way to Franklin, Ron got a call from his wife that their house alarm was going off, so we took a detour on the way down 64 into his golf club neighborhood. His wife met him in the driveway, and we stayed in the Suburban while they walked around the house. They found the back sliding glass door ajar, but not open due to a stop bar. The county sheriff showed up and took over on the inspection so that Ron could take us to Franklin. Ron is the City of Franklin Commissioner and in real estate.

We got a tour of town that ended at the Sapphire Inn, which Ron owns, along with the Budget Hotel. Stealth and Inflammable got out with their packs to check in. I asked Ron to take us to the Outdoor 76 outfitter store, which he was happy to do. Karen had shipped a box of gear and food to the store for us. While I sorted out the gear, deciding what to integrate and what to send home, Bennett got correctly fitted for better trail runners.

I got a great deal on a just returned Sea to Summit pack cover, which is much better than my old REI one. I also got a sleeping bag liner, to take my 40 degree bag down to 26 degrees. After Bennett was fitted, we repacked our food and packs and enjoyed a beer in the back. It was 15:45 and was still snowing hard, so we discussed our options for returning to the trail.

Mother Goose, who we had met before,Outdoor76 advised us to stay in town and avoid the deteriorating weather and decreasing temperatures. Bennett also felt that we should get a hotel room, so we planned to go to the Sapphire. There was a nice Franklin resident sitting at the small bar with us, and he volunteered to take us the mile to the hotel. We learned on the way that he is opening a brewery soon near Outdoor 76. After thanking him, we checked into the hotel.

We made a trip to Dollar General for shampoo, some food supplements, and baby powder. After showering and spreading out our gear to dry, we went across the road to Mi Casa for a delicious Mexican dinner and beer. Later we repacked our packs, I caught up on the TV show Face Off, and we discussed the plan for tomorrow. We’re headed for the Nantahala Outdoor Center, which should take 2-3 days.

Days 8 and 9

Day 8

Today we departed the Top of Georgia hostel at 8:15. It is a 1/2 mile walk from there up Hwy 76 to Dicks Creek GGA-NC State Lineap. By the time we got to the trail, it had started raining. We threw on rain gear and pack covers and hit the trail by 8:45. We made good time on the rolling mountains, completing 4.4 miles in a couple of hours.

We snacked along the way and passed the North Carolina state line before noon. Shortly after the state line crossing, we came to the most photographed tree on the AT and got our picture taken by fellow hiker Stealth. We covered about 12 miles today, arriving at the Muskrat Creek shelter at 14:30, the third there behind Stealth.

We grabbed a couple of spots by the right wall while the mist and drops continued outside. We put on warm clothes as others arrived. By the time everyone was in from different locations, there were six in the shelter, twelve in tents, and one on the ground in the shelter.

Dinner was a chicken Pasta Side with chopped Day 8chicken, which was delicious, warm, and filling. We got a fire started, and I wandered up on the hill above the shelter by myself to meditate and write this as the sun set in the west. It is getting chilly now up here, so I will send this update off and go back to the fire.

We’re in our second state!



Day 9

We woke this morning in the Muskrat Creek shelter with about a third of the campsite up and packing or cooking. Everything was frozen, including my water dromedary hose. I had cold cereal with powdered milk. We packed up, said our goodbyes, and headed north on our second week on the trail, first full day in NC, and a planned 12 mile day to the Carter Gap shelter. We made good time climbing Standing Indian Mountain, passing a few thru hikers that had left our shelter earlDay 9-1ier.

We had a great lunch on top of Standing Indian in the warming sun, as the temperatures rose above freezing. I had two tortilla shells with peanut butter and trail mix. We then headed down the three mile descent of Standing Indian. We crossed a fire road where a couple of spotty thru-hikers [ones who skip the tough sections] were wondering if a car would come along eventually to pick them up for a ride to Franklin, NC, which we found amusing. After throwing out our trash in some bear proof cans there, we started the climb toward Carter Gap.

We arrived at the shelter behind Stealth at about 15:00. We taped up the blisters on our feet while discussing continuing another 3.7 miles to Betty Creek Gap. We voted to continue, and Stealth and Inflammable from Montreal joined us. I grabbed the fire starter newspapers from the shelter on the way out. Snow is expected tomorrow morning.

It was a surreal first mile or so along a Rhododendron-lined mountain ridge, our boots running along a well-trodden path ditch. The ribbon of trail was interrupted by an opening to the right leading to a fantastic 180 degree view of mountain ranges cascading across and away into the distance. Bennett took her first panoramic picture. We were taking pictures of each other when Stealth and Inflammable showed up for more picture taking.

We breathed in the view for a few more minutes and headed down to Betty Creek Gap. We arrived there at 16:40, set up our camp, and made delicious Ramen with chicken for diDay 9nner. About ten thru-hikers stayed in the camp. After dinner, we hung our bear bags and joined five others around the fire while the other hikers went to sleep. We enjoyed the fire for a couple of hours, watching Michigan Tech use it to make his concoctions for dinner. It was a fun time, and we joked until the wood ran out and darkness had fallen.

Bennett and I turned in looking forward to our visit the Outdoor 76 store in Franklin tomorrow. I need a new pack cover and warm liner for my 40 degree sleeping bag. We are also meeting our first shipped box of supplies and food. I’ll be getting my thicker, longer air pad, my  Crocs for lighter camp shoes, and a better rain jacket. YAHOO!