Day 15 – What Goes Up, Unfortunately Must Come Down

The descent into the NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center) was a doozy. Almost as bad as the decent from Blood Mountain, if that day had been a 12 mile day. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Sleeping In

I woke up semi-early on day 15, to use the privy around 8 something. I climbed back into my sleeping bag and figured I could get another 15 minutes of shut eye. Almost an hour and a half later I awoke to being one of the last tents in camp. I didn’t mind. I say goodbye to Tom (who is considering the trail name “late start”) and I eat my breakfast. Breakfast today was steak and pop tarts.

Hiking today was a chore. It’s was mostly downhill and mostly solo. I don’t mind solo hiking, the solitude of the trail is fine, but it is definitely more enjoyable when you’re hiking with others. The flux of new faces and old is interesting on the trail. Seeing a face you recognize in a new location is intoxicating. As is meeting new faces and developing new connections. The rub is that often times these meetings are so fleeting and you may never see those people again. People hike at different paces and sometimes you leap frog each other for miles and sometimes somebody blows right by, never to be seen again.

I finished “Lord of the Flies” today. In the book Ralph was running away from the savages at the same time I was working my way up the mountain to Wesser Bald. I channeled my inner Ralph, our motivations to keep moving became one. Coincidentally the book climaxed and ended just as I crested Wesser Bald. The views from the top were just as amazing as from the other firetowers (if we’re keeping score, that’s 3 firetowers thus far).

The rest of the day, approximately 7 miles, we’re all downhill. I had real concerns about my right knee. I took some extra Tylenol and Motrin but still felt the knee on every step. The Mountain Crossings outline through the trees was a welcome sign at Neels Gap over a week ago, similarly the live music and buildings at the NOC lured me in.

Random thought of the day: What doesn’t kill you only weakens you and makes you easier to kill the next time.

Let’s look at how my step count over the last two weeks compares to my six months leading up to the Trail.

I ran into Reckon, Spa and Gravy at the restaurant at the bottom of the hill and they invited me to sit down with them. They are super friendly and I found myself having a great time with them. Spa is also from Northern California originally and Reckon just puts out great vibes. They’re putting up big miles 15+ per day already so I don’t imagine I’ll see them again until Trail Days in Damascus, VA.

I’m staying the night at a hostel called Gorgeous Stays. It’s basically a bunch of tiny homes and vans/buses, each uniquely decorated and themed. I stayed in a building called the chicken coop and it was quite cozy. It gave me ideas for my own chicken coop I’m building back home.

Tom, Miranda, Hey Bear and our new friend Hammer (from Canada) roasted marshmallows on the porch until about 11.

Tomorrow will be another zero as I wait for my new rain gear to arrive at the NOC. I’lll be taking advantage of the day off by whitewater rafting.

Stow away in my pack for Day 16 on the Appalachian Trail.

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