Two a.m. and I heard the sound of snow falling on the flies and tarps in the Betty 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 was 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, 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.