A Week in the Clouds (Week 2)
Well folks, Georgia has been left behind in favor of North Carolina. Which, to be honest, looks strikingly similar to Georgia. I do have to say that so far, North Carolina has been a little easier than Georgia – the climbs are longer, but they’re gradually steep and often run on ridge lines instead of summiting on and then plummeting off mountain after mountain, as the trail does in Georgia. Then again, I still have a couple hundred miles left of North Carolina, so that opinion could change pretty quickly.
Day 7 – February 20
I spent an awesome night at the Top of Georgia Hostel- they even provided free all you can eat chicken tacos the night before, as well as breakfast burritos in the morning. I got the shuttle back to Dick’s Creek Gap at 9:30. The goal was take a slow day and only do 4.5 miles to Plum Orchard Shelter to make up for my lack of a zero day the previous week. However, when I got to the shelter, I had to bushwhack for a good 2/10 of a mile down a steep hill to find a trickle of water that took me 30 minutes to collect a liter of water from. When I finally went to go sit in the shelter (which required another .2 mile uphill walk), I realized that the water had been relocated- there was a well-flowing stream only 200 feet from the shelter. My map was just old. By that point I was already kind of annoyed, and I got even more frustrated with the shelter in general when I realized I had no service and there were no bear cables. Plus it was only 12:30, so I didn’t really know what I was going to do with myself for the rest of the day. For those reasons, I decided to push 7.3 miles on to the next shelter (Muskrat Shelter).
On the way there, I did pass the North Carolina/ georgia border. One state down!
I’ve also been walking through a lot of the burned parts of the forest lately. In some places it’s kind of nice, because the trial is cleared of leaves and other debris. I can still kind of smell burnt things in some areas though, and it is really upsetting that it happened. In the long run, it’s good for the forest, but it’s definitely spooky to walk through.
Unfortunately the remaining 7 miles that day were pretty much all uphill, and the first three climbs in North Carolina were incredibly steep (short but steep). I did get a picture of the cool looking tree right past the border though, so that was a plus.
When my boyfriend visited over the weekend, he left a bunch a Hershey’s kisses in my pack, which I made short work of that night (although I swear he’s trying to get a mouse to chew a hole in my pack).
Today I did 11.8 miles today, so a pretty mild day. I’ve been liking the trail runners a lot more than the boots – they’re much more breatheable, easy to take on and off, and they make my feet hurt less.
I shared the shelter with two older gentleman that night- one section hiker named Mike, and one thru hiker from last year who’s just redoing the burned portions of the trail this year, named Marshall. I like only having one or two people at the shelters- it’s enough for conversation, but not a crowd.
Day 8 – Feb 21
I got up at 6:30 and ate my pop tarts- I love not having to cook in the morning. I also discovered that I had left two protein bar wrappers in the hipbelt of my pack overnight, so I was very thankful no mice had gotten into it.
I did 12.5 miles today to Carter Gap Shelter – pretty easy terrain.
I got to the shelter at about 2 pm. Marshall was there as well. I set up my tent and went about doing camp things, and all of the sudden this giant cloud of smoke descended. It smelled like fire everywhere and it was difficult to see very far. I was pretty freaked out, but I googled it and it looks like it was just smoke from a prescribed burn in western North Carolina. The smoke went away in about an hour, and didn’t come back for the rest of the night.
Day 9 – Feb 22
It rained allllll night, which in of itself is not a bad thing. What is a bad thing is that fact that, like clockwork, I have to get up at 2:30 every night to go pee. This becomes a little more complicated in the rain, when I have to put my full rainsuit back on so I don’t get my sleeping clothes wet. To make matters worse, when I was getting back into the tent, I accidentally dumped a bunch of rainwater from the rainfly inside the tent. Plus packing up a wet tent is never fun.
Also since it had rained so much, the trail was basically a creek, and there was a lot of mud.
Overall the climb up Albert mountain wasn’t too bad, except for the last .3 miles where it was a very steep rock scramble to the top. And let me tell you, wet rock does not have the best traction. Thankfully, I somehow managed not to fall on my face.
Marshall and I made it to Rock Gap Shelter an hour before we were to be picked up by Zen, the owner of Gooder Grove Hostel, so we staid to talk to a big group of Nobos. We hadn’t seen many people the last couple days, so it was surprising to find a 6 person group. They had all started on the 13th apparently and had been hiking together ever since (and they had not known each other before hand). I personally am not keen on hiking in such a big group, but to each their own.
We hiked the remaining .2 miles to Rock Gap and got picked up by Zen for a total mileage that day of 12 miles. He’s a very interesting person, to say the least. The hostel was nice,$25 for a bunk and shower so not a bad price.
Day 10 – Feb 23
Staying in the hostel was nice. Best part was that I got to dry out my tent. Unfortunately Zen isn’t super time sensitive, so we didn’t get started until 9 am.
It was a lot of uphill. From Rock Gap to Winding Stair Gap (3.5 miles) about half was uphill. Then 4.5 up the first, 2.5 up the next mountain, and .5 to the top of the last bald. Almost 9 miles of uphill out of a 14.8 mile day. At the very least, it was a productive day. There was a fire tower with an amazing view at the end of the day.
I made it to Wayah Bald Shelter at around 3:45, which isn’t bad time, but unfortunately 10 other people were already there. I found a tent spot, but I’m just not a huge fan of sharing a campsite with that many people.
Day 11 – Feb 24
The day started off with a 1.5 mile downhill and 2.5 mile uphill. The uphill was nice and gentle, but it was a little frustrating because I kept leapfrogging with the big group. We stopped at the first shelter to call the NOC. It was supposed to storm really badly that night, and Marshall paid for me to have a bunk at the NOC, which was awesome.
I also ran out of water about 5 miles before the NOC. I thought it was okay because there was a stream coming up in a mile, but it was dry. So I had to wait to refill until the next shelter. It was unfortunate, but not too bad. A good lesson for next time.
Marshall and I finished the 16.3 mile day at NOC by around 3:30. We checked in and got dinner at the restaurant – I got some really good fish tacos. You might find this funny, dad, that Marshal met crazy Ivan while hiking last year – he said he was vibrating with energy- which makes sense. You need a lot of energy to do a marathon every day.
The shower was amazing, although not having a towel did present a bit of a conundrum. Let’s just say I used a lot of paper towels for my hair. The only really annoying part is the lack of service here- there’s wifi, but it doesn’t extend to the cabin I was in.
Day 12 – Feb 25
Zero day number one!
I woke up around 6:30 and ate some instant oatmeal breakfast. Marshall caught a taxi back to Atlanta around 11:30 – he’s headed back to Washington (the state) since he has now completed every mile of the trail! Congrats!
Since I had to be checked out of the room by 10, I just wandered around the NOC for a couple hours with my backpack until my boyfriend arrived at 4. The general store was closed, but the outfitters was open- they don’t have much food, but I did break down and buy a cliff bar. There was also a kayaking competition going on that provided good entertainment for several hours. Bonus- I found an unopened jar of Nutella in the hiker swap box. I dumped it into a ziplock, and it’s coming on trail with me next week as a tortilla topping.
I sat by the river with some other hikers for most of the day. Rusty arrived at 4 with a big box of food for resupply, along with a ton of comfort food and towel and shampoo, etc etc. He’s pretty alright.
My parents also drove into town around 6, and we all went down to franklin, North Carolina for dinner at a very nice French restaurant that I felt severally underdressed for.
Day 13 – Feb 26
Zero day number two!
Rusty and I slept in until 8 and then made bacon, toast, and chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. It was all delicious.
My family and I drove to Walmart to get a few more items for resupply, and we also stopped by a Verizon store to try and get my phone switched over- t mobile has very limited service in the mountains. Unfortunately, we found out we can’t switch my phone, and the guy at the Verizon store also accidentally canceled my t-mobile service, so I’ll be without any phone service for at least a week. Hopefully we can get it sorted out by next week.
My parents left around 2, and Rusty and I went back to the NOC to cook a dinner of chili, toast, more bacon, and chocolate. He’s really not a bad cook.
Here’s hoping the trail gets easier this week! (I’m hopeful, but doubtful).
– Tick Tock
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