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...