Playing Catch Up

Rest and Relaxation

Day 10 zero miles

My first zero. Damn, it felt good to rest in a real bed with real walls around you. I stayed at Chica and Sunsets in Franklin, NC. They couldn’t be more accommodating to shuttle you to town and pick you up. I met up with Snow Bear and we went to Outdoor 76. I needed to pick up a couple Sea to Summit 3L bags for my poop kit and water supplies. After 9 days on trail, Ziplock bags were just not doing it anymore. We signed their thru hiker banner and got the requisite buff.

Next stop was food.  We hit the Lazy Hiker and was disappointed to learn that they are a tap room. However,  we did fill out the free postcard offered to all thru hikers and ordered a meal from the food truck in their parking lot. I ate half of a really good cheese pizza and took the leftovers back to the hostel for dinner that night. A quick resupply at the local Ingles and that was my day.

The weather was glorious (naturally because I was off trail) but it offered me a chance to hang out my wet sleeping bag and other gear. I scored a bottle of Nikwax waterproofing spray in the hiker box and applied some to my packcover. I also found a couple of Knorr pasta sides and a Honey Stinger fruit and nut bar. Hey, this hike is expensive enough. I’m not above rummaging through a hiker box to pinch a few pennies. They are your friend and resource.

Moving On

Day 11 – Rock Gap to Siler Bald Shelter 7.8 miles

So the plan was this: I was going to stay another night at the hostel but the weather forecast for the upcoming week was looking slim. Rain – naturally – was coming but so we’re some downright cold temps. I figured if I left a day sooner, I could hit the NOC before they came. Remember what I said about plans? Yeah…

I knew I’d hit the shelter by mid to early afternoon.  I was ok with that because it was supposed to rain. I was outfitted head to toe for rain that never came. Halfway up the climb out of Rock Gap, I shed my rain gear. It was hot. No doubt the clouds were still foreboding but not a drop to be had.

Along the trail I ran into Stripper. I met him that night at Carter Shelter when I slept on the ground. We decided to both stop at Siler due to the impending rain. Pulling into the shelter he recognized 2 guys there, Grateful and Passing Thru. Older hikers who had made camp here for the past couple days waiting for the weather to clear. They made room for us and kept a fire burning.

It turned into a really nice stop. The guys were fun. I told them I’m a smoke magnet and for sure, everywhere I went around the fire smoke found me. This lead to Grateful giving me my trail name “smoke dancer”. I’ve been christened. It did rain that night. Daybreak came and it was time to move on. I haven’t seen any of the 3 guys since.

View from inside Siler Shelter

Day 12 Siler Bald Shelter to Cold Spring Shelter 12.2 miles

It was another grey, foggy, dreary, drizzly day. I’m kind of getting tired of days like these. There are only so many “spooky moody forest” or “enchanted misty path” photos you can take.

The climb up to Wayah Tower was a SLOG. It seemed to go on forever.  And of course being a grey, foggy, dreary, drizzly day I was left with a view like the old black and white TVs after midnight after the station played the National Anthem (you younger folks can Google that).

I arrived at Cold Spring Shelter around 2:30pm. A total of 3 other guys came that night. It started to rain and continued doing so until the morning. Where we woke to snow on the ground.

Day 13 Cold Spring Shelter to the NOC 11.5 miles.

Waking to a dusting of snow wasn’t a surprise.  I knew temps were going to fall onto the 20’s that night. I was thankful that it was a scant amount and that the trail wasn’t covered in ice. The snow made the trees sparkle. The sun was shining and the sky was a deep blue. But damn, it was cold. The windchill pushed the feel into the teens.

The highlight of the day was Wesser Tower. The terrain was pretty cruisy at first then the climb up. The views were just stunning. You have a 360 degree vantage point from the top.

After a snack break it was time to tackle the trail down.  I’ve been dreading this downhill. Not only have I made this descent once already in 2015, but I’ve seen vlogs of it.  Throw in about 20 tree blowdowns, where I had to climb over or slither under, and it was quite a conclusion to my day. My knees were screaming at me with every jarring step. And if I wasn’t on my feet, I was butt scooting across rock faces. The narrow path had a defining line between mountain wall and a fast fall to the forest floor. I granny stepped the whole way down.

And then, like a mirage in the desert, the sound of cars came from the distance and soon I could see the rooftop of the NOC. Hallelujah.  A 2 night stay in a private room with my own bathroom? Yes, please. The half pound “Tail of the Dragon” burger and fries at River’s End Restaurant was the literal icing on the cake.

Tomorrow I’ll turn northwards once more. It’s a straight 8 mile climb out of this gorge. This will be new territory for me, as in 2015 I ended my 2 week hike here to get back to work. My thoughts are now about the impending Smokys.



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.

Comments 6

  • Dawn Pollard : Mar 11th

    Outstanding Blog.

    • Andrea Stilwell : Mar 11th

      Thank you! I try my best.

  • Trina Jordan : Mar 12th

    Enjoy reading your progress..keep it up! Stay safe!!

    • Andrea Stilwell : Mar 12th

      Thank you for reading my blog!

  • DEB : Mar 12th

    The sun WILL come out! I am really enjoying your telling of your hike. Look forward to each of your updates! Take care out there & wishing you always get a spot in the shelter on rainy nights!

  • Andrea Stilwell : Mar 13th

    I appreciate you reading and commenting on my blog. Thanks for the well wishes!


What Do You Think?