Sleeping Hikers Nearly Run Over by Truck
Bama➡️Baxter Day 45 & 46
Day 45: 13 miles
This morning we all got up in the shelter pretty early and were ready to walk by 7 a.m. It was only about 11.5 miles to the NOC, where we planned to spend the afternoon.
There was a short climb to start the day and at the top there was a fire tower. We all climbed it and got to see some awesome views from the top. I dropped my neck buff and a guy returned it to me! I was so thankful because I’ve had that buff since 2017 and I love it. And from the tower it was only 6.5 more miles to the Nantahala Outdoor Center.
We wound up just pushing there without a break. I felt really good and got caught up in conversation. And when I wasn’t talking, I was jamming out to music and zoning out. By noon we did 11+ miles and got to the NOC. Our first plan of action was going to the restaurant. Crime Scene was already there with Jay and another hiker Tom who I met yesterday. We sat at the table next to them and ordered drinks and food.
The three of us decided to take a shot before our food came. Wild move on a hiking empty stomach. Then we got food and dove on in. I got the most delicious spicy fried chicken sandwich with coleslaw. I ate just about everything. We were all talking and laughing. It was quite the hiker trash moment in the restaurant. Then we got another round of shots and got some for the Crime Scene and Tom too. Crime kept saying that he was going to hike out but he was getting sucked into our lazy afternoon.
After we ate, we headed over to the gear shop to get our Smoky Mountains permits! I can’t believe that we’ll be entering the Smokies in just a couple of days. That felt like such a far-off point on the AT and it’s already right around the corner. Once that was done, we went to the general store for some drinks and snacks. The guys got beers and then we went to sit by the river and drink in Adirondack chairs.
It was such a relaxing and fun afternoon. We had planned to hike out around 3 p.m. but wound up staying until 5 p.m. Crime Scene, Tom, John, Jesse, and I all sat by the river and joked around while drinking. We got a pizza and then decided that we needed more beer. And then we needed a second pizza after all of that beer. It was quite the afternoon vortex. But eventually, around 5 p.m., we actually packed up and set out to do a bit more walking.
The climb out of the NOC was infamous for its elevation gain. So we figured we wouldn’t make it that far. But we wanted to at least get a mile or two done if we could. It was hot out and we were all a bit drunk but we persevered. We wound up doing 1.6 miles to a “campsite” by a road. The alternative was that we had to walk a couple more miles and do a whole lot more elevation gain. There was a bunch of space along the side of a dirt road. We were just concerned that maybe someone might drive around the corner in the middle of the night. But the desire to camp outweighed our concerns.
The four of us set up and then we were joined by four more hikers later on. I snacked for dinner and we all stayed up for a bit talking. Crime Scene passed by later in the evening. He got caught up hanging out at the NOC. He hung out with us at our campsite for a while before hiking on. Then all of us called it a night.
Day 46: 17.6 miles
This morning when I woke up at our site, I looked over to my right and saw a car parked by us at the road. It had driven in between the tent on one side and our cowboy camps on the other side while all of us slept. They must have been pulling off there to go hunting our something. We were all glad to have not been run over in our sleep. Maybe I’ll think twice before camping next to a road next time. Maybe.
We packed up and set out. The start of the day was a massive climb over the course of about seven miles. But all of us pushed along and made the most of it. It truly wasn’t as bad as I expected, especially setting out before it got too hot out.
Midway through the climb, we took our first break. I got service and saw a message from a friend Madie from high school. She was driving through the area today, heading for Georgia. I checked and saw that in about nine miles, we would be passing by a trailhead, and it turns out that she was about 3-4 hours from there as well. It was too perfect. So we planned to meet up there around 1 p.m. and hang out for lunch. She even said that she’d bring us some food for lunch, which was such an exciting idea. That really motivated us to keep cruising along over the course of the day.
All of us hiked on from there to do the last bit of climb. All in all, it was about 3000+ feet of elevation gain over the first seven miles. When we got to the actual top, we took another break. And I finally drank the beer that I had carried all the way from the NOC! Quite a big climb to carry a beer up. But it felt like quite the reward at the top of the climb. We ate some snacks up there and hung out for a bit before continuing on.
There was a good bit of downhill after we reached the top, which was nice. We all pushed on the final four miles to the trailhead where Madie was going to meet us. And she even walked up onto the trail and surprised me in the woods! I didn’t expect that at all; it was so awesome. Then we walked down to the lot where she was parked. She brought all of us giant burritos! What a legend. We all sat out in the grass and ate together. I swear that was the most delicious thing I’d ever eaten. There was even queso and chips to go along with it.
All of us hung out there at the lot for a long time eating. We made a lot of other hikers super jealous with our burritos, which I didn’t feel too good about. But we had to cherish the amazing coincidence and trail magic that came along with it. It was so awesome to see Madie. We used to be best friends in high school and probably haven’t seen each other in eight years. It was so cool to just be able to randomly hang out somewhere in North Carolina. I love the way that things work out.
After staying at the trailhead for a long while, we eventually had to get back to walking. We had about five more miles to do to get to our intended campsite for the night. Fortunately, I digested the burrito super fast and felt totally fine hiking because we definitely had a pretty big climb after coming out of the trailhead parking lot. I was fueled by burrito and felt strong.
I got to camp around 4:30 p.m. and set up to cowboy camp next to Jesse and John. Two other hikers, Smoke and Tim, who we had met before, were camped by us as well. I collected water, set up camp, and ate snacks for dinner once again. I’ve been eating so much food from trail magic that I haven’t cooked dinner on trail in days.
Once I finished snacking, I hung my Ursack and then got into my bag for the night. It was a perfect night to cowboy camp. Not too hot and not too cold. And when I woke up in the middle of the night, I got to do some fantastic star gazing.
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