Days 12 thru 16- Trail Names, Tail Magic, the Trail Provides

Day 12- 6.82 miles, 2,586’ elevation gain; Dick’s Creek Gap to campsite between Wheeler and Rocky Knobs.

I couldn’t wait around forever for my resupply, this morning by 0900 we were on the trail at Dick’s Creek Gap where I was picked up two days prior at the same time. Thankfully, Hostel Around The Bend is going to bounce my box for me when it finally arrives. And guess what, it arrived hours after I left. First thing out the window is always the plan, so we kept going north. I had resupplied for a light four days at the hostel and Cash, another guest, gave River enough dog food to make it to Franklin, NC on top of thr tuna packets i snahged for him. Thanks Cash, I appreciate you! Sure, it wasn’t ideal or cost efficient but it wasn’t just my resupply that was delayed, it was everyone’s in the area. Lichen found in the footpath along the AT in North Carolina

I met Grateful, another NOBO at Dick’s Creek Gap and talked for awhile before the sky opened up again. Our conversation was cut short so we could both get our gear out of the rain and in our packs. We haven’t seen the sun for a couple days at this point. I put River’s leash on and we trudged up the mountain until the rain became too much. Being cold is one thing being wet and cold is a dangerous thing. I decided to turn into Plumorchard Gap Shelter to wait out the worst of it. It seemed like everyone had the same idea as us.

Thankfully, River’s raincoat was able to keep the rain out and he wasn’t too damp crawling into his sleeping bag for the afternoon. Me however, I was soaked. I stripped all my wet clothes off, put on dry clothes, crawled in my sleeping bag, and hung my wet clothes to drip dry. I’m very grateful we made it through another dangerous situation unscathed.

As the rain tapered off, I again took it as my sign to pack up and mosey north in search of a single tent campsite.

River smiling from ear to ear I’m the slow half, he’s steady.

Day 13- 8.75 miles 2,941’ elevation gain; Wheeler Knob to Deep Gap

River was feeling himself again today as the sun warmed our souls. I just love watching his little floppy ears bounce as he basically prances up the trail. Smiles for miles with this guy, especially as he crossed the GA/NC border. One state down, many more (13) to go!

Having moved a few more miles yesterday evening during the lull in the rain, I was able to sleep in until 0830. I can’t imagine everyone in the shelter to be sleeping or silent until that hour. Knowing hikes of this magnitude are more mental than physical, I need all the quality sleep I can get. Sleeping well around others is not a skill I possess. Someone from the shelter had finally caught up to me, 0530 is when the shelter was up and moving. I don’t think I’ve seen 0530 yet, slept through them all.

I can surely tell we’re moving our way further north and further up in elevation. The gentle, level GA trail has began to give way to trails carved out of the rock face and miles of ridgeline. We can also see the Smokies off in the distance now. Oak and Poplar trees are giving way to Beech and many species of Pine trees.

We got trail names finally, Slow and Steady. I declined Headed Home as I believe someone else out here already claimed it. We’ll take it, because I don’t want it to go down hill from here.

Day 14- 12.2 miles, 2224’ elevation gain; Deep Gap to Betty’s Gap

North Carolina and the Southern Nantahala Wilderness has really welcomed River and I with lots of elevation gain and many, many blowdowns. It really puts into perspective the constant need for trail crews of volunteers to keep the trail free of debris. l like to take my trekking poles and side swipe the small broken branches to the side of the trail, however there’s just so much right now, I can’t get it all. Thankfully, most of the blowdowns have been easy to get under or over for both River and I so far.

Southern Nantahala Wilderness sign

We seem to be in a section of trail with not many hikers. I only saw four other thru-hikers today, which is a welcomed change from GA. The ones that we are seeing are flying past, never to be seen again. This wasn’t today, but I had one gent pass and say he was stopping for lunch at the next shelter in about a mile and a half. I decided we would take our lunch at the shelter as well, but when we arrived he was already gone. He’s either wicked fast or I am truly that slow. Happy trails man, I’m bummed I missed ya.

Day 15- 10.64 miles, 2,749′ elevation gain; Betty’s Gap Campsite to Rocky Cove Knob

Our campsite off Betty’s Creek was quite amazing. I slept so good with the sound of the creek babbling throughout the night, today we should cross the 100 mile marker as we summit Albert Mountain.

Slow and Steady taking a morning selfie.I promised I would never turn down his lovins on this trip. This is where we’re supposed to be. Time can wait.

I slowly packed up camp as River put his nose to the wind, smelling all the smells. I ate a cold breakfast of strawberry pop tarts and a honey bun, delicious, but certainly not nutritious. By the time I was headed back up the blue blaze trail to the AT, all the other campers had vacated the area already. Slow and steady, through it all.

We had the most perfect weather on our ascent up Albert, not too hot or cold and just enough clouds to shade the sun during the climb. I had the summit to myself for about 15 minutes before Nutter Butter and Cheese Block arrived.

Slow standing at the 100 mile marker for a selfie.
100 miles down, many, many more to go.

I hung out for a few munutes before deciding we should continue north, and I’m glad I took off when I did. As I was decending from Albert Mountain into Rock Gap, two day hikers alerted me to some fancy trail magic being provided in the gap. We chatted for a bit, talking about the trail and good ol Maine before I literally skipped my way to the trail magic. When River and I got down into Rock Gap, Fresh Grounds was there in all of his Trail Angel glory. He had 5 gallons of blue Gatorade, fresh fruit, grilled cheese, chili with all the fixings, and of course coffee (which I don’t drink). The last time I tried coffee I told my Dad it tasted like ground up ants. What ground up ants taste like, I don’t know. Kids…

Steady with Fresh GroundsSteady just chillin’.

I had two cups of Gatorade, a cup of chili, a grilled cheese on French bread, two handfuls of grapes and an apple. Fresh Grounds offered me another cup of chili, and despite being a pretty tall human, I don’t eat very much. We’re also not pushing our bodies into hiker hunger with large mile and elevation days just yet. Although very grateful for the offer, I declined. Thank you for all you do for us Fresh Grounds, I hope we’ll cross your path again!

Campsite after Trail Magic at Rock GapView from campHome for the night.

Day 16- Town Day in Franklin, NC

I woke up with less than three miles to Winding Stair Gap. The first shuttle of the day comes at 0930. After leaving Fresh Grounds’ set up last night we went another mile, mile and a half before turning into a single tent campsite. Beauty is all I have to say about that score of a site.

We hopped in the shuttle with Nutter Butter, Cheese Block, and Gadget, and stopped at Rock Gap for potential hikers before heading into Franklin, NC. For five dollars a ride, the shuttle picks up and returns twice a day from both gaps shuttling hikers into Franklin for whatever their hearts desire. For me, it was the Asian King Buffett and my two separate resupplies. The one that never made it to Hiawassee, GA while I held over and the one for my five day carry out of Winding Stair Gap.

I got off the shuttle with Riv and went to Outdoor 76. Around the Bend Hostle was able to get my package from Hiawassee, GA to Franklin, NC via hiker shuttles and I can’t thank everyone enough who had a part in moving my resupply north for me. Outdoor 76 had a washer and dryer in the basement so I did a load of laundry while I went and filled my belly.

I decided to take both resupplies totalling 12 days of food for me and River rather than try to get back to the post office. For perspective that’s food from mile 69.4 to 166.5. With the upcoming forecasted rain I thought it would be a great idea to just take it all and eat and zero often until the weight comes down. I wish I knew what I had signed myself up for, sorry River I I need to put a couple things in your pack finally.

…and we’re still headed home.

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Comments 4

  • Richard Martinelli : Mar 18th

    Enjoyed reading thanks for sharing,

    • Slow & Steady : Apr 15th

      Thank you Richard!

  • jen l : Mar 19th

    Hi! Loving reading about you and River on the trail. I hope you get a good long, not too rugged dry stretch soon. God speed. Let me know if you need a place to stay up in VT when you come through. Blessings,

    • Slow & Steady : Apr 15th

      Thank you so much, my sun dance only does so much. I’ll keep that in mind. very much appreciated.


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