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.
We 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.
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.
There 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.