Franklin to NOC

Day 13:

We left Franklin on the 11 am shuttle and returned back to Rock Gap shortly after. We all climbed out of the gap and into Winding Stair Gap where we ate some snacks and hung around for a bit. We all kept hiking in hopes of getting to Silas Bald shelter. However, some of our trail family members were in too much pain to carry on, so they stopped about 3 miles before. The rest of us hiked on and stayed at the Siler Bald shelter that night.
We all got to see a beautiful sunset and then hung around the fire for a while. The whole time everyone was hoping it wouldn’t rain. When hiker midnight rolled around, we all crawled into our tents and crashed.

Day 14:

The next morning, a couple of people went up to see the sunrise on top of the bald. Just seeing it from my tent spot was enough for me. We were all so relieved to wake up just in time to pack up all of our tents and get in the shelter before it started raining. We all ate some hot breakfast and hung around for a bit before mustering up the courage to get sopping wet and hike through the storm. We were all hoping to reach the 12 mile shelter at Cold Spring, so most people got an early start. I however waited around as long as possible unable to pull off my down jacket and step into the downpour.
Around 10, the hikers that had stayed a little bit up the trail rolled through camp which gave me yet another reason to wait out the rain even longer. The three of us finally headed out around 1 pm, knowing that there was no way we were going to walk to the 12 mile shelter. We got hiking, and finally reached the watchtower. We were literally hiking in fog down the road next to the trail, but with amazing luck, the sky cleared up after about 20 minutes on top of the mountain. We got to see some amazing views even though a good chunk of forest was destroyed by the fires from last year.
Finally, we all got to the Wayah Bald shelter where we saw a couple of hikers that we had been hiking with on and off throughout the last couple of days. We all hung around for a while, ate some much needed grub, and got some practice hanging bear bags PCT style.

Day 15:

Our little group woke up feeling ambitious, so we talked about heading into NOC that night. The plan was to hike the 18 miles into NOC and meet up with the rest of the trail family later that night. We left the shelter feeling great and hiked pretty much nonstop until Cold Spring Shelter. There, we ate lunch and hung around for a bit.
We kept on hiking and enjoyed a nice view not too far down the trail. Here we met Blessed who was headed southbound on a section hike. He luckily told us that the NOC closes everything down around 7pm, so our hopes of making it into NOC later that night diminish slightly. We pressed on, however, and headed onward to Wesser Bald.
The climb up the mountain seemed endless, but finally, I reached the top. The tower on top of the mountain was spectacular. Luckily, it was a beautiful clear day, so you could see for miles in each direction. The best part was: it was a full day of downhill after that climb (For the most part). We hung around on top of the mountain for a while then started the decent.
Shortly after, I reached the Wesser Bald Shelter. I decided not to stop so that I wouldn’t waste any time. My hopes of reaching NOC were driving me forward. What was supposedly all downhill turned out to be quite the climb up to the top of yet another mountain. I got about half a mile from the top when I needed a break. I sat down right on the side of the mountain contemplating the decision to try to make it into NOC.
Finally, my hiking buddy Itchy showed up. He too was beat from hiking all day. Neither of us wanted to press on. But we were determined to stick to the original plan to “roll into NOC by 7”. After joking about trying to saw off our feet, we pressed on. We finally reached the top of the mountain when I received a text from KitKat saying that he stayed at the Wesser Bald shelter. There was no point in turning back now though, so we started to make the steep decent.
What seemed like forever and an Appalachian rabbit sighting later, we finally reached the shelter just outside of NOC. There was no way we were going to do that extra mile to get in that night, so we set up camp (in the dark) and hoped that tomorrow would be a better day.

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