NEW! A Photo Gallery added to the side of my blog with tons of pictures I’ve been taking! Please check them out! It is on the right side of the screen below the follow buttons. I am only able to do this when I have access to a computer and add the captions when I have tons of time and stay up til 3 in the morning which I don’t want to do again anytime soon, so it might be awhile before I can update the gallery again. But in the meantime I really hope you enjoy all of the photos! 🙂 please let me know if you have any questions about them at all! Some where taken on my phone, others on my camera, and some are from instagram. Boom. Enjoy!
4/19: The Nantahala Outdoor Center is awesome! Cool outfitter, awesome river, amazing food, and unexpectedly comfy bunk beds. A nice mix of locals, tourists, river guides, and thru hikers makes for a rowdy time. We were not planning on taking a zero there, but we heard about live blue grass music that night and a few of our friends rolled in and we decided to enjoy our time at the NOC. We hung out at the outfitters, and resupplied. I had a lot if extra food so I sent it forward to Gatlinburg (half way through the smokies). Because I had been so so cold at night I had ordered an underquilt from hammock gear and was told it was going to be in Fontana Dam the time I got there in a few days. I decided to send my inflatable therma rest x therm back home. I also sent back my silk sleeping bag liner and bought a warmer liner to hopefully help sleep warmer at night. It was a rainy day but enjoyed the time with friends and even got a personal blue grass concert at the bonfire. Angrybird, a 2013 thru hiker, gave us all words of wisdom to enjoy your time on trail, take your time, respect the trail, and make lots of friends and memories. I felt guilty for taking another day off, but I think Angrybird is right. And it is also important to give your body a break. The night was fun and I got to meet new thru hiker friends!
The AT went over the Nantahala River at the NOC:
4/20: Had a great Easter breakfast with Pigpen, Becca, Fall n Oats, Angrybird, Peepshow, Doug, and Tigergin. You can tell hikers are in town with all of the packs outside:
Headed out for the legendary climb out of the NOC, the mountains where in the clouds:
Solitude colored hard boiled eggs and his them around the NOC. At the trail head he had a whole box full, complete with a salt and pepper shaker!
The NOC is also down for it’s major descent in and it’s major ascent out. There was a lot of hype about it and it was easier than I thought it was going to be. It was a gorgeous day and trees and flowers were starting to bloom so it was a fantastic hike.
A memorial for Wade Sutton, a Forest Service Ranger who died in 1968 trying to put out a forest fire. There were prayer cards and stones and pebbles all around it. I stopped and paid my respects and added a stone to the large collection.
It’s important to remember and realize the amount of labor the volunteers and workers put into the AT to make it was it is today. Most of all of the trail upkeep is all done by volunteers who have to carry heavy hand tools (no power tools are allowed in most areas) and saw fallen trees, create steps with logs and rocks and dig drainage trenches. Without the continued hard work and dedication of these people we would not have this amazing trail! Since then, whenever I come across fallen branches on the trail I try to move them out of the way. I have even met hikers who will move and cut fallen trees out if the way! It’s those little things you don’t really think about in the early days of trail that are actually a huge deal in your everyday hike.
Natural sunscreen and air conditioning via the rhododendrons:
Views of Nantahala Gorge (where the NOC is located) from the Jump-up:
Sassafrass Gap Shelter Outlet:
After stopping at the shelter for a lunch break, I climbed up to Cheoah Bald. It was gorgeous!! The Trail suddenly opened up to this huge view and it was so pretty! It was awesome just to sit and chill and take in everything around me.
I also discovered a short side trail that lead to another view off of the bald. It was a small spot and everything was so quiet and peaceful. It was awesome!
After passing Locust Gap where everyone was going to camp for the night, I decided to hike a little longer and stealth camp by myself. Stealth camping is where camp off of the Trail that is not at a shelter or a designated campsite. Stealth camping is totally kosher in most parts of the AT. I found a great hammock spot about a mile and a half up on top of a ridge and enjoyed a quiet dinner and sunset to myself. It was perfect. A great ending to a great 12 mile day.
4/21: I slept in and hit the trail about 9:30. In 2 miles I hit the recently hyped up Jaccob’s Ladder, famous for climbing 600 feet in 1.3 miles. We had heard rumors of people practically climbing up the mountain on their hands and knees. I was nervous for it, but also excited for the challenge. It was a pretty steep climb, but not at all as hard as I thought- I think I’m definitely getting my trail legs!
It was another hot and sunny day and I hiked most of the day by myself. I got to Cable Gap Shelter where I met Wolf and Strider. It was about 4ish and I had hiked about 10 miles and there was miles 6.6 miles until the Fontana Dam Shelter. I was feeling pretty good and knew I would see familiar faces ahead, so I decided to hike on. I was keeping a great pace and eventually you could see Fontana Dam from the distance.
Since I could see the dam I thought I would be at the Fontana Dam Shelter (known as the Fontana Hilton) real soon like. 2 hours later (sooo looong) I finally arrived at the Fontana Crossing over NC 28. It was only 1.1 miles to the shelter. It was the longest 1.1 mile of my entire life! The trail went on and on and when you could finally see the shelter you still had to go up and around the mountain to reach it. The positive thing was that because of the lower elevation everything was green and beautiful.
The Fontana Hilton gets it’s name because it is a 20 person shelter, there are 3 large areas to set up tents, just down the road there are bathrooms and a shower, and down the road even farther is the Visitors Center with huge granite bathrooms. I had about a 17 mile day and I was feeling really tired by the time I reached the shelter. Met up with some friends and got to meet new people as well. I did not want to sleep in the shelter and the only available spot to hammock was on a steep hill. At the bottom was an inlet/cesspool filled trash and real funky looking water. As I was setting up my hammock and unpacking my gear I took out my sleeping bag which was in it’s stuff sack compressed like the size of a volley ball. I set it on the ground and accidentally kicked it. I watched in horror as my sleeping bag ferociously rolled down the side of the hill, gaining speed and momentum about to fall to it’s demise. And then at the last second, a strap snagged a log and saved it! Praise the woods!
4/22: Woke up and broke down camp just before the rain hit. Tang, Muscadine, Sasquatch and I got a ride to the Fontana Lodge which is like a big resort. I had a mail drop there with food and was expecting my underquilt to be there. I got my food but no sign of the underquilt. Sweeps and the rest of the Cuddle Puddle showed up at the Lodge and I decided to take a zero to wait for my underquilt so I could have it for the smokies, where it is notoriously cold, windy, and rainy. Had a cool view of the Great Smoky Mountains from Fontana Dam and it was such a change to see blooming trees and flowers!
More to come soon I promise! Today also marks my 1 month trailiversary! After (or maybe before) my post about going through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park I will reflect on this past month and what I have learned.
Thank you so much god reading! Don’t hesitate to ask questions or give me your thoughts! 🙂
Peace like a river,