HYOH, Franklin, and the NOC

AT day 20

Town day, Franklin NC

Started the day by getting picked up for free breakfast. Then had to do laundry and resupply. Laundry means washing allllll the stanky clothes, while wearing something that doesn’t need to be washed. Like my puffy jacket and a rain skirt.

Next on the agenda was town food, and we choose an all you can eat buffet. We are not far enough into our journey to get thrown out yet, but we did get our monies worth. Another trail angel was staying at our same hotel and offered us a ride to dinner. We failed to solicit a ride back and had to waddle two miles.

Hotel had a hiker party happening when we got back and we got to see Miss Janet and Dexter again.

AT day 21 Winding Stair Gap to Wayah Bald Shelter 11.5 miles, 3300 feet of gain

Took advantage of free pancake breakfast again before heading out of town. Miss Janet gave us a ride back to the trail, but stopped at a grocery store first and asked us to grab Gatorade and fruit to restock her trail angel supply, in the spirit of paying it forward.
So we had exited at Rock Gap, and I meant to be a purist and do all the miles…but I have a time crunch and need to go home soon for a few weeks. So in the spirit of HYOH (Hike Your Own Hike) we skipped a 3ish unremarkable fairly flat miles. We have been doing a lot of blue blazing (side trails that aren’t official AT miles) and finding that people who skip these spots are missing some of the absolute best views, like Standing Indian Mountain and Siler Bald. We might not pass every white blaze, but we are putting in the miles.
We spent the morning hiking with Ale, who was weighed down with a full package of hot dogs, loaves of bread, and who knows what else. We split at the Siler Bald trail, none of the thru hikers but Caroline and I went up. And it was steep, and what I thought was the top wasn’t, the trail kept going up. But the views were amazing and we got trail magic fruit at the top.
Caroline has been identifying mushrooms and plants, and we’ve been eating some of the trail side greens. She still hasn’t settled on a trail name and I suggested Forager, and that appears to have stuck.
Later in the afternoon there was a long ascent, and Caroline and I both struggled. Thankfully there was more trail angel magic at the top. The support team for Shades the Blind Hiker were set up and gave us soda and chips and other goodies. Gizmo and his dog Traildina were also hanging out.
We got to Wayah Bald Shelter around 630 pm and found room in the shelter. I had stopped to pee and Caroline kept going onward, and I meandered slightly off trail. Farout app got me back on trail.

Tried to eat but mostly wanted to sleep. Saw my first shelter mouse in the privy.

AT day 22

Got up and made breakfast and coffee, and set off before Caroline. She travels faster and I knew she would catch up. We are both still struggling with eating enough, especially in the evenings so we are trying to do better at snacking and lunch. Caroline made some backpacker green curry meal, and it was truly inedible and she got a bit grumpy about trying to eat lunch and failing, and then having to carry the heavy meal.
We were both a bit bonked and were looking at a 800 foot ascent to the shelter. We were discussing just stealth camping in a gap, but arrived there to find trail magic. A guy who was class of 2015 was handing out food, and took our trash including Caroline’s uneaten lunch, and after soda and sloppy joes we felt revived enough to tackle the hill.
We watched a pair of sisters say their goodbyes. One is thru hiking, and the other just did a bit and is going home now. I have to leave in two weeks, and Caroline and I both said that this would be us splitting up shortly. We haven’t worked out all the logistics, but I’m encouraging her to find things to do to occupy her time and maybe I can catch up. Like she could go sit on a beach for two weeks😂

At the top we decided to camp at the fire tower rather than push the last .8 miles to camp, because the views were amazing. We tented, but five other people slept on top. It was cold and windy and I felt good about our decision. Plus I hate heights and could only get to the top of the first set of stairs, where we placed our food to keep it away from bears.

AT day 23

Today was a low mileage day and mostly descent so we didn’t rush out of camp. I made it to the top of the fire tower and everyone cheered, and we hung out waiting for the sunrise that didn’t happen because it was too foggy.
Set off and stopped at the shelter to make breakfast and use the fancy privy. This one even had a door. With a lock!!
Some very steep descent and scrambles. A lot of people were complaining about their knees again, and Caroline is having pain in her foot. So we took it slow with many breaks.
Currently at Nantahala Outdoor Center in the tiniest of rooms, up a steep hill. Going to the bathroom requires climbing multiple flights of stairs, so the tree right outside will be getting watered.
Saw a bunch of hikers here we know, Gizmo, Cheetah, Rusty etc. Many are taking multiple zero days for various reasons-knees, and rain and possibly snow soon. We are planning to stay two nights.

There is nothing else for miles, but the one restaurant here was really good so far, so we are planning to eat as much as possible and hydrate. The last two days were over 70 and we’ve not been drinking enough water.

AT days 24 & 25

We ended up staying three nights at Nantahala Outdoor Center, to rest up a bit and wait out some weather. The bunk room we spent the first night in were awful, smelly and sad and uncomfortable. And the walk to the bathroom involved far too many stairs. Upgraded to a nicer room with linens and pillows! Spent some time soaking our feet in the mountain cold river and chatting with other hikers. And we ate through almost the entire menu at the restaurant.

AT day 26

The forecast still called for a bit of snow, but we were ready to move on. The trail out of the NOC is notorious for being difficult, “straight up”, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it a few weeks ago. My legs didn’t seem ready to get back on the trail, and it was a slow tough day.
On the way up a guy ran past us without any gear, saying that he was on his way to help his son off the mountain. We were concerned about his lack of everything, especially water. A little later we ran into both of them going down. He reported it was really cold and there was three inches of snow at the shelter we were aiming for.

Arrived at Sassafras Shelter to find maybe a half inch of snow. But it was cold, and dropping. We had a little dinner and were in our sleeping bags by 6 PM. The kids that had taken the second level of the shelter had used their tents to make an enclosure, and they were loud and smoking weed, but were asleep before hiker midnight (9PM)

AT day 27

Awoke to find a little more snow had fallen overnight. The cold made it hard to get moving. But once we did everything was so pretty with all the snow and ice. And slippery😳, which made for some slow going.
Caroline had the brilliant idea to sprinkle some root beer powder on the snow, and invited a couple guys who caught up with us to lick the faux snow cones off the rhododendron leaves.
The plan was to hike 9 miles to the next shelter. But around noon we decided to go to Stecoah Gap instead and to a hostel for the night, as tonight was going to be quite cold again. Hit the convenience store next door for a few supplies. Had a dinner of tortilla chips and nacho cheese, and spaghetti that Caroline made.
Hit 150 miles!!
Current status: Hanging out in a borrowed Nightmare Before Christmas Onesie while the hostel does all my laundry .

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