Change Is Coming


When planning my hike, I didn’t expect to see fall colors among the trees.  I thought that moving south would put me ahead of the fall color. It turns out that temperatures in the mountains are quite a bit cooler than at lower elevations, and the leaves are beginning to change. I have mixed feelings here. Sure, I love the fall colors like anybody.

The downside is when they collect in the trail and you can’t see what you’re stepping on.

When it rains they get slick. I have just a few more days to avoid a twisted ankle. I’m looking forward to providing only colorful vistas in my coming posts and no injury reports

Day 141 – Derrick Knob shelter to Fontana Dam (26 miles) 

Day 142 – Fontana Dam to Stecoah Gap (14 miles) 

Day 143 – Stecoah Gap to NOC (14 miles) 

Day 144 – NOC to Wayah Gap (22 miles) 

Fontana Dam

Fontana Dam is one of the milestones locations on the AT, similar to the few towns the trail passes directly through. We had some great views as we traveled down the mountain to the dam.

What is the NOC?

The NOC is the Nantahala Outdoor Center. It’s a large rafting and other outdoor adventure provider. They have a hostel we didn’t use, and an excellent restaurant that we did use.

While I  was waiting outside for a table to become available, a gentleman passed by and asked if I was walking the trail.  I spent a few minutes talking to him about where we are, how far we’ve come, and what it’s like.  After dinner, our waitress explained that the meal for Sideways,  Spokes and myself were all taken care of.  Wow! Trail magic comes in many flavors.

Sign of the Times

I think this was originally “Shelter”.

‘Nuff said…

And a tree swallowing a sign.

More Vistas

It doesn’t seem possible

We came along this plaque to keep in mind as we enjoy the forests. I hope you can enlarge and read it.

What is Unexpected on the Trail?

Great question.  Truly, every day brings something new and unexpected. However, in general terms two things come to mind.

First, I expected to see a vast sky of stars each night from the tops of dark mountains.  Not so. When I was up north, it was continually cloudy. Now that I’m in the south, I found it really doesn’t matter.  Even on the clearest nights, we’re surrounded by tree cover. I can see that they’re up there, but no large expanses of stars.

On a more positive side, there have been no biting insects.  Up north mosquitoes and black flies were a scourge, and I expected worse in the south. In fact, I brought two bottles of insect repellent, which I’ve since left in a hiker box.  Miraculously, I haven’t killed a single mosquito on my southbound trip. Yellow jackets (which sting rather than bite) are another story.

Heard on the Trail

So, we’re hiking along when Sideways suddenly stops. As I pass her, she says she needs a pit stop. But, what I heard was she needs to hip-hop. I hesitated and asked “whaaat??”, to which clarified for me in no uncertain terms.

Thanks for listening.

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Comments 3

  • Laura S Mason : Oct 16th

    I have been thoroughly enjoying the posts of your trip, Tom. I grew up in Massachusetts (just south of the NH/VT border) and have been dreaming of hiking the Appalachian Trail since then. I have been planning on starting at Rockfish Gap the end of April 2024 and doing a very similar Flip-Flop. My husband, who is a retired corporate finance guy (He similarly took an early retirement in 2020 due to company changes caused by Covid.), is graciously offering to be my support person. Your posts have been very encouraging and I am excited – and a little fearful– of the challenge I plan to face next year.

    • Tom Czako : Oct 17th

      Hi Laura, thanks for the kind words. I’m always happy to hear that people are reading and enjoying my posts. Good luck on your hike.

  • Carol : Oct 17th

    Great pictures! Not too far to go.


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