Still Going After Three Weeks

Day 11:  AT Miles 12.7 — Burningtown Gap to NOC

Last night was just as cold as the night before but with much stronger winds. In fact, around 10:00 p.m. I had to get out of the tent and put the pegs back in on one corner that had collapsed during the night. That was terrible but I only imagined what would’ve happened if more pegs had pulled loose! I woke up to the sun coming up and hurriedly got ready to hike. The best way to stay warm out here is to climb a mountain. Today my goal was to get into the Nantahala Outdoor Center which is a resupply stop and a good place to spend the night for hikers.

The best view by far for the day was atop Wasser Bald. It was a climb to about 4,600 feet but wasn’t as bad as some of the other climbs. Maybe I’m starting to get my trail legs?

Wasser Bald

It was great to see the NOC finally after a full day of hiking. I would need to print out my Smoky Mountain National Park permit, pick up a resupply box, shower, and get a bunk style room for the night.


Dinner tonight was two chicken pot pies, an iced tea, and two cookies. What a treat! And now I need to sort my food for the upcoming few days.

Resupply and Dinner

Shout out to Cameron from New Albany Ohio who I’ve hiked a few days with. He just graduated Notre Dame and will be off to medical school in the Fall. The man can fly on the trail and eat his weight. He made a few days go by faster, but no way can I keep up with him, so am wishing him my best.

Day 12: AT Miles 16.4 — NOC to Brown Fork Gap Stealth Site

Today was a pretty tough day for me. The start of the hike would climb out of the low elevation where the NOC is located and get back up to the elevation we typically hike at. My goal for today is to hike around 14 miles to an upcoming gap and spend the night. This would leave me another 14 miles to get to Fontana Dam. At Fontana Dam I will need to resupply and recharge. I will take a zero, which means a zero hiking miles day, to rest the legs and get ready for a hard five-day push through Smoky Mountain National Park.  At least the climb out of the NOC was often in a tunnel of mountain laurel. So beautiful!

Mountain Laurel

The view of top Cheoah Bald was equally beautiful.

Cheoah Bald

By the time I got to the gap where I planned to stealth camp, there was an incredible amount of noise and road construction. I made the decision to climb what’s called Jacobs Ladder, a very steep, vertical climb, and find a camp a few miles down the trail. It actually worked out well in the end because I got a beautiful campsite and a shorter day hiking on Friday into Fontana Dam.

Day 13:  AT Miles 12.7 — Brown Fork Gap to Fontana Dam

I should mention that part of my strategy on a shorter hiking day today was to avoid rain that was due in around 3:00 p.m. The rain was supposed to last most of Friday afternoon and into Saturday. Saturday would be my zero and resupply day. This strategy also meant I would stay inside of one of the AT shelters for the first time, which are typically much noisier and at times and certainly more rodent infested than my tent. But on the trail, you have to be flexible, so here I go. Today, overall was a really good cruising day. The climbs weren’t too tough and neither were the descents. Water was easy to filter. The trail had long stretches of relatively flat with little elevation or rock hopping. It made the time go by much faster.  You could definitely feel the air changing towards rain as the day started. The day started overcast but warmer which was nice. Before long, you could see Fontana Dam from about four miles away.

Fontana Dam Afar

In no time I was at the shelter. I had beaten the rain by a few hours. There were about 12 of us men in the shelter for the night. It was pretty loud, but the company was good, and the mice were not to be seen. Best of all I was dry while the wind howled and the storm raged, so I’ll take it. Between rain I was able to get this late day photo.


Day 14 Zero Day

My zero day starts gloomy with rain in the forecast, but not too bad early morning, allowing me to get this photo.

Fontana Lake Sunrise

The night was a little restless with the wind howling and the men snoring, but it was a lot better than being out in a tent. I was able to start the day dry, have a little breakfast, and get out to the shuttle that would take me to the resort for my stay tonight. Two of the three hikers and I started the town visit with a big brunch. It was incredible. I went into the hotel lobby to collect my resupply box and get quarters to do my laundry. Out here we fondly call ourselves hiker trash, and I fit the image today as I wore my rain kilt, jacket and slippers only and put all my clothes into the washing machine. I felt strangely right at place.  My plan for the rest of the day is to shower, catch up on my blogging, have an early dinner, and get a few food items from the market. I’ll be packed up and ready for another big breakfast before I catch the shuttle back to the AT.

So this completes my first two weeks on the Appalachian Trail. It’s been incredibly hard and incredibly awesome at the same time.  My upcoming week is to get through the Smokies and into Hot Springs North Carolina where I get to have a reunion with my wife, daughter, and four-month-old granddaughter.  That really gives me something to look forward to. I can’t wait!

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Comments 3

  • Doublepack : Mar 30th

    Really enjoying your posts-best of luck as you continue your trek to Katahdin!

    • Dan H : Apr 1st

      Just read every one tonight. Very engaging!

  • Dan H : Apr 1st

    Just read every one tonight. Very engaging!


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