Saturday, April 20, 2013

Shelter Zero

I twisted my ankle my first day out, and I wanted to give it a rest. I had climbed out of the NOC, and camped at Sassafras Gap Shelter. The forecast was for rain all that next day, with dangerous thunder storms starting in the early evening, and continuing thruout the night. As much as I hate the shelters, I didn't want to be in a tent for that. I decided to take that zero at Sassafras Gap.

And so, I spent my day off cleaning up the shelter area, tweaking my gear, and consuming the contents of my food bag.

Hikers started coming in. Mad Tom and Pam, a couple my age, spent most of the afternoon deciding whether to hike on or stay. Eventually, the were comfortably ensconced in the shelter. Acorn, a young lady I knew from the 2013 AT hikers forum on Facebook, showed up. Pinoit Airman, a retired Air Force hiker from the Philippines came in along with Jeff, Clutch, Chris, and BG (Belgium Guy). The shelter was filling up, but thankfully it wasn't the young party crowd of the night before.

Grumbling about the weather guessers became a consistent topic of discussion. It didn't rain all day, and the storm didn't start till late into the evening. It wasn't as intense as predicted, but I was glad I wasn't in a tent...

I got out early the next morning. I had a reservation at Hiker's Inn, and I had to be at Fontana Dam by 3:00 on the day after next. So I was gonna push a 12 mile day and camp at Cody Gap. That'd put me within a fairly easy 8 miles of Fontana Dam.

It was foggy at the top of Cheoah Bald, and it made for some great shots of Chris and Clutch. From there, a long step descent into Stecoah Gap, a brutal climb up Jacob's Ladder, and a nice long hike along a ridge line got me to Cody gap. BG was setting up as I got there. I droped down towards the water source, found a flat spot, and set up camp.

The next morning I got on the trail as Jeff (now "The Saint") was passing by. We ended up running into each other most of the day. Had lunch with him and NG at Cable Gap Shelter which was built by the CCC in the 30's. A long, easy afternoon descent got me into Fontana Dam with time to spare.

The folks from Hikers Inn picked me up, got me into a room, took my dirty clothes to launder 'em. I got a shower, put my batteries on charge and then they shuttled Newton and I into town for resupply and dinner.

Great people and great service.

Tomorrow I head into the Smokies.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The NOC, Onward and Upward

The 2500' descent to the Nantahala River from Wesser Bald Shelter was tough on my old knee bones. But the promise of a shower, laundry, two hots and a cot was motivating.

The Nantahala Outdoor Center is a big commercial enterprise catering to rafting, kayaking and to hikers. It straddles the AT, and provides all the services mentioned above, plus short term resupply and a well stocked outfitter. A bunk was $19 and change, and they offer spendier options for those who crave more privacy. And the staff is great.

I availed myself of most of the amenities, picked up a box of food I had mailed there, and turned in early. The next morning, I bought a T-shirt and a visor, packed a box with a few things, and mailed it from their stone admin building.

Then headed up...

2960' in 6.7 miles, with a fully replenished pack makes for a tough day. Beautiful lookouts, walks across ridges with views on both sides, hot sun on the south facing slopes, deep shade going thru rhododendron thickets, rocky patches, and a final steep ascent to Swim Bald kept it interesting. I ran into Wheels, Mailman Dan, Gracie, Re-Run and Tu-Tu, and we leap frogged each other all the way to the top. I was never so happy to see a shelter come into view.

Till I got there...

Sassafras Gap Shelter is a two deck structure with a great fire ring, a piped spring in front, and about a billion black flies.

So, the conundrum. A big, nasty thunderstorm is forecasted for the following day. My plan was to stay here through the storm and head out the following day. But these flies. They're maddening. And I managed to sprout a couple of blisters. The others cameled-up and headed out to find a less buggy camp site. I decided to set up my tent and escape the plague, and patch my feet.

Tomorrow I'll reassess the sichiashun...

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Heading In To The NOC

Predawn breakfast in bed ...

After three hiking days, I'm at Wesser Bald, and heading into Nantahala Outdoor Center for a minor resupply, a hot shower and a warm bunk.

I've been hiking through the Nantahala Forest in North Carolina. The AT has taken me over several balds - Mountain summits that tho are not truly above the treeline in the sense that they aren't an alpine environment, they are grassy mountain tops with 360 degree views.

Weather has been outstanding. Got a little sunburn yesterday. Been plenty warm at night ... There's thunderstorms in the forecast for Thursday, so I might hole up in a shelter if it's bad.

Been averaging 8.4 miles per day, which is right on target with, my planned slow start. A few aches and pains, but nothing to fret about.

Been camping with a group that has similar pace. Crocatopia and Camel thru hiked last year and are hiking into Damascus, VA for Trail Days. Turtle and Blackjack are on their northbound thrus.

After the NOC,  three or four more days and I'll be ready to hike into the Smokies.

Wikipedia article on Balds:

Sunday, April 7, 2013

L.Dog's Back On The Trail

It's almost like I took a couple of zeros in Franklin. I went into town on April 3Rd and was back on the trail on the 6th. Except it was a year later ...

I went into town last spring, hoping to treat a tendonitis, and went home 6 days later still unable to walk with what turned out to be a bursitis. Got that fixed and started again in July hiking south from Maine. That attempt was foiled by a hernia that needed surgery.


With 644 miles under my belt, I'm starting again where I left off in spring, and hiking till it's time to go home for a family reunion in July.

So I started in Rock Gap, NC.  A couple of hours later, as I was descending into Winding Stair Gap, I rolled my ankle pretty bad.  Still managed to do the 8 miles to Siler Bald, where I met up with Head Butt, Firefly, Vexatious, and Blackjack. Sat around a fire eating and telling lies till hiker midnight,  and crawled into my tent.

It was a cold night, but not as cold as it had been just last week. Forecast is for sunny days and reasonable nights for the next several days...