More Than Just Miles
Day 18: NOC to Sassafras Gap Shelter (7.1 miles)
White water at the NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center) was excellent. The water was frigid cold, around 40°, but the day warmed up to around 80° and overcast, so conditions were pretty good. Chris and I rented a ducky which is a two person kayak shaped raft, a and took a two hour ride down the river with class two and three rapids. Perfect for a beginner.
Many other thru-hikers seemed surprised I would take time out of my hike to raft, but seems like the people I enjoy hanging with out here all did. There’s more to a thru-hike than just making miles.
By the time rafting was done and lunch was consumed it was 3:00 pm and past due to get to the trail. If we wanted to make it to the shelter, it was a 7.1 mile climb with a 2600′ climb. Doable, but we would be pushing sundown. Halfway up we began to smell smoke. Then we began to see smoke from an adjacent mountain and concern grew. We kept our eyes out for any other signs of a wildfire. When the smoke began to burn my eyes were decided to make some calls. The number for the forest service fire response had a message to call 911 with emergencies. Chris called and we learned there was a couple thousand acre controlled burn taking place just over the border in Tennessee. We were mostly relieved, but still kept our eyes out, especially considering there was a wildfire just a few days ago along the AT just two days hike back (I was stuck in Franklin dealing with my tooth and avoided it). Got to camp, ate a few wraps, and after a bit of social time around the fire, crashed early. 15+ day tomorrow and rain expected overnight. This week be fun.
Day 19: Sassafras Gap Shelter to Cable Gap Shelter (15.4 miles)
Today was a wet and messy breakdown. It’s always a bit of a mess folding and putting away a wet tent either covered in leaves or wet dirt/mud and packing that mess into my backpack. I kept everything except my tent and Ursack inside a contractor bag in my pack to keep it dry, so once packed up it’s not too difficult to manage. I peeled off my rain pants before hiking. Unless it’s very cold out, the pants just cause my to sweat inside then and then I’m wet anyway, and today was going to be mid 40s to low 50s.
The rain was constant but my upper half and feet stayed dry by good bear choices, and so I remained both warm and blister free. The hiking was pretty pleasant and by early afternoon I had hiked 9 miles and stopped at a shelter for lunch and some stretching out of the rain.
The rain stopped, the sun peaked out, I continued my journey with magical views. As I rose up to high ledges, I could see the tops of mountains in the distance passing up through the clouds. It was both beautiful and made me realize I could only see this because I too was above the clouds. As I decended, I walked through a magical and slightly eiree forest. This concluded as I reached the next shelter, set up camp, and called it a night. To tired today for social time.
Day 20: Cable Gap Shelter to Fontana Dam Shelter (6.5 miles)
Another wet walk. I rained from about the time I started breaking down my tent until now, which is 4:00 pm as I do my laundry, one of the mundane taskes we perform while in civilization. I’ve got a room here. Matt offered to share a room here he’d already reserved and after two days of rain a room with a shower and bathroom, a warm bed, and a laundromat are a delightful afternoon. There is live music at the local restaurant, so after I get all the tasks done I’ll go enjoy some food I didn’t make over a camp stove and a couple beers. It will likely be some brand of country music, but I’ll take what I can get. For the next 75 miles I’ll be in familiar territory, Great Smokey Mountains National Park, which I did two years ago to test my equipment for this hike. That was on May and we had freezing weather, thunderstorms and snow. The next five days are supposed to be sunny and in the 60s and 70s, so I’ve been blessed by the Gods.
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