Day 14 Miles 52.7 – 58.4 + Hiawassee (5.7)

It was a slow morning in town as we packed up, ate a bite, and waited out the rain. Around 2, while waiting at the grocery store, a trail angel stopped us to see if we wanted a ride to the trail (Hiawassee runs a shuttle service, but unbeknownst to us it didn’t run this afternoon). We took her up on it and made it to the trailhead. It was still raining. We covered the 6-ish miles up to Tray Mount shelter where Gabby continued.
I packed out sesame chicken and lo mien; town food is worth the weight on the first night. The bear I passed must have wondered what the smell was since I had it strapped to the top of my pack. He scurried off after yelling at him.

Day 15 Miles 58.4 – 73.9 (15.5)

It was a cold night and a cold morning.
Knowing we had planned some bigger miles, I kept my pace consistent throughout the day. I finally caught up with Pearl and surprisingly Gabby around 1 pm at Dicks Creek Gap. Where I had a late lunch.
By 4 I made it to Plum Orchard Gap shelter. For dinner I had pasta and tried something new, I packed out fresh jalapeno and mushrooms so I mixed them all.

Day 16 Mile 73.9 – 93.7 (19.8)

The crew (dear I say Tramily ) that I am hiking with wanted to skip a shelter to avoid a bear that is taking down bear hangs.
Far-Out, the app that hikers use as a map, allows folks to comment. Those comments are a wealth of info. So it was a long day, but the miles went by smoothly on the warm spring day. Pearl and I chatted about life and career ambitions. We moved far enough that we passed the hikers that we had been hanging out with and met many new hikers. Also, I crossed the Georgia-North Carolina State line.

Day 17 Miles 93.7 – 109.6 + Franklin, NC (15.9)

We made it to Franklin by the mid-afternoon. The tramily had been planning on 4-ish days but made it in 3. Franklin also has a shuttle/bus for hikers, so we hopped on and headed into town. We stayed at a run-down motel, piling 4 people into a room. It’s strange how standards change. On the trail, when you are sleeping in the dirt with no problem vs. going into town (and paying); dirt, grime, and bugs suddenly become unacceptable. Regardless, we enjoyed the comforts of the shower, hot food, and a bed.

Day 18 Miles 109.6 – 117.8 + Franklin, NC (8.2)

In the morning, we walked over to Bent Willow Baking and enjoyed a fancy coffee drinks and pastries. Many establishments have hiker discounts, this one included. We headed over to Outdoor 76, a highly established gear store with amenities for thru-hikers, including a basement lounge where one can do laundry, a gastropub, and all small name-brand gear that hikers like.
Emma and Heidi elected to take another day in town. Gabby, Pearl, and I wanted to keep hiking; just like that the mini tramily split. We caught the afternoon bus and covered a few miles to the good campsite.
I taught Pearl how to do a PCT bear hang.

Day 19 Miles 117.8 – 136.1(18.3)

It rained last night and into the morning, we hung out in our tents hoping it would stop. Around 8 we started packing up. It was a dreary morning walking through the clouds and rain. Spring has most certainly sprung here with the trees and flowers in bloom, which was nice to have something to look at.
The rain broke by the afternoon and I had a blast, walking down the slightly more technical descent into camp, and listening to music. After the girls still didn’t show up by 7, I reached out. (The cell service was surprisingly good). They weren’t going to make it to the shelter I had stopped at. Pearl’s Achilles was acting up, so they camped 4 miles behind me.

Day 20 Miles 136.1 – 153.1 + NOC (17)

NOC, Nantahala Outdoor Center, a rafting company, is on the trail. So after a short 2-mile hike in the morning, I enjoyed a huge breakfast with Jeff, a hiker who had passed us a few days back. Gabby, Pearl, and I had talked about river rafting, but they weren’t going to make it in time, and I didn’t feel like rafting alone; plus it was a bit cold. Jeff and I played hopscotch (passing each other at semi-regular intervals) through the cloudy ridges. I was feeling sluggish from the breakfast, and the day was full of lots of climbing. At camp, we met some characters, namely Fire, a hiker who hasn’t stopped hiking for 5 years. He was boisterous and at first difficult to read, but certainly entertaining with his stories and unique perspective.

Day 21 Miles 153.1 – 166 + Fontana (12.9)

It was another town day so the miles went quickly. However, I had significant tightness on the outside of my left ankle. Jeff and I made it to Fontana by 1 and enjoyed a ginger ale on the dock. He wanted to charge his phone so I continued to the “Fontana Hilton” shelter (so-called because it’s on the lake, with running water, and toilets). I needed to resupply so I hitched into the resort. After a small resupply, I headed to the one restaurant in town and joined other hikers. Good times and beer flowed. I met up with two other portions of tramilies and was convinced, with little difficulty to split a room in town. We played Frisbee in the park till the sunset.

Hanging outside the hotel room, my left knee very painfully popped/snapped.
I could barely walk and couldn’t bend my knee past 90° without significant pain. I hoped to sleep it off.

Day 22 zero / getting off trail to rest that bad knee

In the morning I still couldn’t bend my leg. I spent the morning deliberating what to do. I was at the base of the Great Smokey Mountains, which have a lot of elevation gain and not many exit points (roads/trailheads). I had 75 miles and 6 days before I planned to get off to attend/celebrate my wife’s graduation.

After researching as much as I could and attempting to stretch, I sadly chose to get off trail in hopes that it would enable my body to recover and handle more miles in the weeks/years to come.
I found someone willing to drive me to Knoxville, bought a flight, and just like that the Appalachian Trail was far away.

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

What Do You Think?