I Fell Into My First Vortex: Days 14–17 on the AT

Day 14: Wayah Bald Shelter to Rufus Morgan Shelter; 15.4 miles

The last few days, I’ve woken up to the sound of woodpeckers instead of owls. I wonder if people can distinguish species of woodpeckers from one another solely based on the sound of their… peck(?). Or the tree they’re pecking on?

I took my time getting out of camp today and hiked alone for a lot of the morning.

I was really happy about the (mostly) gradual (and downhill!) hiking in the morning after yesterday’s long climb. A few miles into the day, I came across a water source that ran through a big tree. I placed my backpack and poles near the base of its trunk, then walked along its step-like roots to where the water was trickling out. I found a spot perfectly shaped for my behind to plop down, filter water, eat a snack, and take in the sounds of the forest. After about ten minutes, I left. As I looked back, it was like I was never there. This tree has probably provided thousands of people a place to rest over the years, and it’ll be there for thousands more. We’re so fleeting. But maybe that tree is forever?

I thought that the rest of the hike would be mostly easy, but I was wrong.

Fun, though

I’m learning I’m a big fan of basking in the sun, so I was ready to sit down and take a cat nap whenever I had the chance. The chances came at Rocky Bald around lunchtime, then at the Wesser Bald fire tower during a snack break.

Love a previously-frozen-now-thawed burrito

After the firetower, the trail followed the ridge for a while and the views were incredible. I spent most of the afternoon hiking with Honeybun in mostly comfortable silence.

We briefly discussed camping close to the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC), but opted for the Rufus Morgan Shelter about a mile away instead. I tried a new concoction for dinner: Chili ramen, a packet of peanut butter, and peanuts for some crunch. I just need veggies! 

I slept soundly with the promise of a hot breakfast at River’s End less than 30 minutes from my tent.

Day 15: Rufus Morgan Shelter to NOC — an unplanned nearo; 0.9 miles

Ugh, something I don’t love: putting on cold glasses in the morning and waiting for the fog to clear.

Anyway, with the promise of a hot breakfast at NOC, I packed up camp more quickly than ever before and hiked the 0.9 miles downhill to the restaurant.

Camera was too slow, but look how happy this hungry hiker is!!

As I got closer, I heard the sound of rapids and cars. The trail actually crosses NOC’s footbridge over the water, which makes resupplying really (and maybe too) convenient.

Pigpen, Plantasia, Sweet Stuff, and I met up at River’s End for brekkie. I saw a bunch of other familiar faces: Half Pint, DJ, Magellan, and Phoenix, to name a few.

I’d been craving French toast for days, so I was really happy to see that on the menu. (THANK YOU, thank you, thank you, my dear Lisa for the Venmo for hiker treats!! My French toast tasted alllll the sweeter with you on my mind. Xo, your songbird in the loft 😊)

After breakfast, I resupplied at the general store and picked up some postcards at NOC Outfitters. It was supposed to rain all day, but the sun was shining. I didn’t want to leave my riverside perch to hike back uphill for seven miles; I wanted to bask in the sunshine and sit on my ass all day.

Zoom for thru-hikers basking

Other thru-hikers joined us. Our group waxed and waned throughout the day — a fluctuating tramily of sorts. Some of us rinsed our extra socks and shirts in the river and laid them out on rocks to dry in the sun.

Plantasia bought me a hard kombucha and a six-pack of something else to share with everyone else. Around lunchtime, I ordered a bean burger. I understand the vortex now. The more convenient to trail, the more money I’m at risk of spending. Nothing outrageous, but I’m trying to stick to a budget here!!

Needless to say, we decided to zero/nearo and stay at the NOC to soak up the sunny afternoon.

Most of the crew got dinner out, but I wasn’t hungry and didn’t want to spend more money. I chatted with Honeybun for a while, enjoyed a little alone time, then Facetimed my dad for his birthday before falling asleep. If you’re reading this, wish my dad a belated happy birthday in the comments!!

Day 16: NOC to Locust Cove Gap Tentsite; 10.7 miles

Honestly, I prefer my tent to the NOC’s rooms. Our room was super barebones and kinda dirty. Plus, it costs money to rent a towel.

I ate a crumbly poptart on our balcony then started uphill out of the NOC.


Pretty soon, I was in the clouds. Everything was wet, gray, and foggy (including my glasses). And let me tell you: There’s nothing like a seemingly endless climb to bring up some repressed or unresolved feelings. Today was a challenge both physically and emotionally.

About seven miles in, I came to a shelter where I could get out of the rain for a few minutes to eat lunch. I found my little tramily huddled up and was so happy to be in their familiar presence again.

Today’s lunch was peanut butter and jelly sandwiched between two tortillas. I’m so sick of tortillas. I also had a fruit pouch — the kind toddlers eat — and some dried apples.

Honeybun waited for me another mile uphill at Cheoah Bald because I needed help pulling my poncho back over my bag after peeing. What a gentleman. It was super foggy, but I hear there’s a great sunset at the bald when it’s clear.

Today’s view from Cheoah Bald

We hiked together down to the tentsite tonight, deftly passing over big rocks and gnarly roots with ease. Just kidding, it was super wet and the trail was covered in leaves. I was yelping every few minutes the whole way down whenever one of my feet went sliding.

At camp, I made a Knorr side of Alfredo pasta with Taco Bell hot sauce from Pigpen and jalapeño seasoning from Sweet Stuff. I really need to pack out a few veggies next time I resupply.

Everyone seems pretty wiped from today’s hike. Even though sun came out and is illuminating my tent (and warming it up before the cold night ahead!!) as I type this, we’re all cuddled up in our sleeping bags. I’m just waiting for that last-pee-before-sleep to hit.

Finally, sun!

Day 17: Locust Cove Gap to Cable Gap Shelter; 11.8 miles

Between the freezing cold temperatures and my slanted tent site, I didn’t sleep much and really didn’t want to leave the cocoon of my sleeping bag this morning.

It always takes me a bit longer than everyone else to pack up. I can’t tell if I’m just slow, or if my pack system could be better. Oh well. Smiles over miles, as my friend Banjo would say.

Once I squished down my roll top, I ate my crumbled strawberry poptart next to Honeybun while he made coffee. Eventually, I became cold enough to decide it was time to get going.

I felt so tired heading up to Mt. Possible. Honeybun caught up to me and said there might be trail magic ahead at Stecoah Gap. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but that put a slight pep in my step.

Anything’s possible on Mt. Possible

Lo and behold, when we reached Stecoah Gap, a local church was setting up for trail magic! Plantasia even backtracked a quarter mile to partake.

After our trail magic lunch, it was onto Jacob’s Ladder — a steep ascent out of Stecoah Gap — and the rest of the afternoon. We still had nearly nine miles to hike.

I kept feeling more and more exhausted as the day went on. My backpack felt heavy and my legs were slow. I drank a bunch of water, had an electrolyte packet, and tried to anticipate my hunger to no avail. Then I remembered my period is going to start in a few days. Duh. Kinda nervous to deal with that in the Smokies!!

Plantasia and I arrived at camp and made dinner before setting up our tents and hanging our bear lines. Two tired gals.

I’m in a slanted tent spot again, though less so than last night. About six miles to Fontana tomorrow. I’m on the fence about staying at the shelter vs. the lodge (they have a hiker discount). Maybe it’s my impending period, maybe it’s that I haven’t really felt clean in nearly three weeks, but a hotel sounds amazing right about now. TV, laundry, cozy bedding… A lovely retreat before hitting the Smokies.

I’ll keep ya posted.

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Comments 12

  • Syd : Mar 30th

    Go Mo!!

    • Mo Wynne : Apr 6th


  • Marji : Mar 31st

    Yeah, what Syd said. Love your blog. Wait impatiently for a new one. Keep up the good work. Love you, grammaaaaa❤️

    • Mo Wynne : Apr 6th

      Love ya!

  • Franz Valle : Mar 31st

    I’ve never commented before, and I’m following several hikers.
    I guess it never dawned on me that hikers had to deal with their monthly periods while on the trail for six months.

    • Mo Wynne : Apr 6th

      Some people get/adjust their birth control so they skip their periods. And some folks lose their periods during the trail because of the strenuous hiking day after day. But yep, a lot of people DO have them! Thanks for reading!!

  • Mom 😘 : Mar 31st

    Almost a month in with this adventure! So proud of you!! Keep smiling with a pep in your step! We love you! ❤️❤️

    • Mo Wynne : Apr 6th

      I love you momma!!

  • Ben : Mar 31st

    Happy belated birthday to Mo’s Dad! Keep up the great posts and progress!

    • Mo Wynne : Apr 6th

      Thanks, Ben!!

  • Kylie Cisney : Apr 1st

    Yep: sunny cat naps >>>>> everything else! Proud of you, friend!!

    & Happy Belated Birthday, Mo’s Dad!

    • Mo Wynne : Apr 6th

      They are truly the best! Missin ya ❤️


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