Nearo and Zero in Bryson City


Hello friends! I hope that my posts have been somewhat entertaining. There are still several pre-posted entries to come until, I think, next Tuesday.

Yesterday we got off the trail at the Nantahala Outdoor Center and hitched a ride into Bryson City. We hiked about six miles that morning from the Wesser Bald shelter and while there were some hills in the first few miles, it was mostly downhill after.

Originally we were going to just resupply in NOC and keep on going. We heard various things about NOC not having a lot of supplies, and while you could make do, they were correct. For a major outfitter being smack dab on the AT, I would have expected more of an outfitter like Mountain Crossings at Neels Gap. We bought an extra meal for the next three days out since we had two meals left and tried for Aqua Mira but the hikers that came in before snagged the last two and also bought some Yaktrax, well, a pair for me. If I don’t use them I could always send them back, but they are supposed to give more stability on ice and snow—-for the Smokies.

Anyway, we hitched a ride to Bryson City about 14 miles away. It wasn’t an easy hitch either, took about 30 minutes, but someone finally stopped for us and dropped us off and we found an affordable hotel for two nights. Ahhhh, boy was that shower so nice. And the bed. oh, the bed. Sleeping in a mummy bag and it being cold, you don’t get to stretch out all that much. Actually the night before I was able to keep my head out of the sleeping bag most of the night. I can’t wait until I just use the bag as a light cover.

To recap the past week: (I’ll do detailed posts with the photos next week when I am on Chris’ mom’s computer—the hotel wouldn’t let me upload photos)

-Just after you pass the GA/NC line there are really steep climbs that are not listed in the AT Companion book. Our first thoughts were that NC sucked. But then, it got ok.

-Sunday it rained all day long. We got up before it started and headed out, but it rained the entire day. We had to climb Standing Indian Mtn that day and we were dreading it because it was our first 5K mtn, but it had a fairly gently sloping switchback up the entire thing, though the top was covered in ice for about a quarter mile and was quite treacherous. Then it was downhill to the shelter and we got there in good time, about 3:30pm and had a super early dinner and were in our tent by 5pm. However, our tent was leaking from the rainfly and dripping on my bag, somewhat on Chris’ and I didn’t sleep that great that night. And we had a small puddle the next morning. I was peeved. (we called Big Agnes and they are sending a new fly to Fontana Dam for us).

-We woke up to snow the next morning and it snowed the entire day on Monday. Snow was preferrable to rain. We had another big climb that day, Albert Mtn, which is more of a scramble and use your hands kind of climb. Luckily it was a steep but relatively short climb. A fairly easy walk after that to the Rock Gap shelter.

-Tuesday we left camp a little late and then just downhill from where we were we ran into some Trail Angels, three ladies, who were making hot dogs. So, we stopped for about 45 minutes and had hot dogs, Cokes and ding dongs. The rest of the day was sunny and we climbed two balds that day. Siler Bald (there’s a Silers bald soon) which doesn’t take you to the top but you can drop you pack and walk to the top. That was pretty neat. We had to climb Wayah Bald, too, because our intended destination for the night ended up being coverd in snow still on the north face of that mountain. That was a treacherous 1 mile hike through the snow, too. A lot of people were making decisions on skipping the Smokies based on that.

-Wednesday was a fairly good day, some climbing and hills, but mostly a good hike of only 10 miles since we went further the day before. Sunshine day. Climbed the Wesser Bald and tower with great views. Met a lot of new people that day because they had been at the Wayah bald shelter. Two trail dogs. Oh, another Trail Angel was set up before we climbed to the Cold Spring shelter and we had a hamburger, sodas and chips for an early lunch.

It looks like we had a crappy climb out of the NOC tomorrow. We came down in elevation to somewhere in the 1,000’s and late tomorow we have to go over a 6K peak somewhere. It will be a 10 mile day as well as for the next three days after. Then we’ll take another zero with Chris’ mom and probably hit the Smokies. We will be reevaluating our food and time to get to Hot Springs because our original plan was 11 days and that much food carrying sucks.

Nickie: I’m thinking on your question about hardships. I’ll have to answer it next time after I talk with Chris about it.

Anyway…resting up today. Lounging around and probably getting more grub in town.

Oh, in Ashleigh news she is off the ventilator and is up to 3lbs and something oz and also is starting bottle feedings. All of the grandparents have gotten to hold her, too. Hopefully in about a month or six weeks she can come home!

Vistas…


Mountain vista

This was a hell of a climb right out of Woody Gap. Freakin’ cold too with the wind. Had a hurried lunch by a log right near the top of this. Kinda too cold to enjoy with the wind. Most of the time you are walking along and don’t really see the view at all. A nice clear day makes it worthwhile.

Hiawassee


Before I start a post, I need everyone to think/pray for my friend Connie. We went to college together and were roomates for a year before she graduated. She was pregnant with triplets. Just about the time that Ashleigh was born I found out she was having triplets and that it had been touch and go and she could deliver early like Asheligh was. I just read her blog post and she has lost all three of the babies, two born alive to later pass and another stillborn. All with names and teeny tiny weights. She has a nearly six year old son who was desperately wanting a brother (all three were boys). Please, please, think of them. I am incredibly sad for her right now. Connie, if you are reading, I am thinking of you a lot, ok? *hugs* my friend.

From the title of the post we are in Hiawassee, near the border of North Carolina. Tomorrow we shall cross into North Carolina…whew! What a trip this has been.

Since I last wrote, the weather has gotten better. In fact, today is the most beautiful day. We left Neel’s Gap (or is it Neel Gap like the sign says at at Mountain Crossings?) and went for Cowrock which had a nice campsite to watch our first sunset on the trail. It was a beautiful spot and we had it to ourselves (and kinda warded off 12 college age hikers who came up when they realized there wasn’t room for that many tents).

We’ve been leap frogging a guy name Cob, aka: Crazy Old Bastard (name his daughter gave him) real name: Joe from Maryland. He’s probably in his early 60’s, nice guy and we’re apparently on the same pace. He stayed at Wolf Laural Top just about a mile south of where we did. We climbed out of Cowrock and made our way for Blue Mtn for the night, stopping in Low Gap shelter for lunch. We ran into Llano (on Trailjournals) who had started a week ago this past Wednesday and was taking her time as were a few others.

We by far aren’t the fastest nor the slowest, we’re somewhere in the middle, there’s a guy named Jackal from England (maybe Ireland…?) who has been blowing everyone out of the water, doing nearly 20 mile days already. Then of course there are the 8-miler folks, who go shelter to shelter. We left the big group we had been with at Neel’s Gap where they stayed at a hostel so now we are somewhere in the middle and picking up the slower people who were ahead of us. Of course, now that we are taking a half day, they will all catch up.

My left ankle has started hurting. We came down a fairly flat/downhill trail for a good distance but it was sloped a bit and well, for some reason my left foot likes to take the brunt of things, like stepping on rocks the wrong way or happening to be the first foot to come down off of a step. I’m going to keep popping the Vitamin I until it feels better.

The downhills are sometimes almost as bad as the uphills. And body pains switch all the time. Sometimes you want a slight uphill to give a respite for one bodypart and then you will want a downhill to give respite for the other. My biggest thing is to get better “Trail Lungs”. I am slowly not stopping as much on an uphill and not huffing and puffing as much, but it still hurts a bit. I’m hoping by the time the Smokies roll around it will be better.

Which the Smokies….the trail rumors are that the Smokies are still inpenetrable. Someone said there was 30″ of snow with more on the way….who knows. I’ll have to investigate soon.

Foodwise…we had a good amount from leaving Springer, but our box from Neels Gap was a bit much. The junk food is gone, the cookies and fruitroll ups and almonds have been great, but the real food has been more than we needed. Last night we made mac and cheese and then some potatoes and tuna. Mmmmm…! hah! Actually the mac wasn’t too bad. Anything is good if you are hungry. I’ve got to start eating more before bed because my stomach is what wakes me up in the morning and sometimes I’m a little barfy from being hungry.

What else….oh there is a lot I suppose. I can’t write worth a crap in my journal. I think in my head all day long and the last thing I want to think about when I sit down at night is to write more. I had a slight mental cry out yesterday. We’d just climbed Rocky Mtn right past Unicoi Gap and it hit me that I had six more months. Not that I didn’t know this but it was homesickness I guess. And I think the difference is that even when we lived in Florida we had internet and phone all the time and everyone was accessible. (btw we are doing Trailphone.net look for Ridley and Panther for our updates. We do this most every night if we have a signal).

I guess that is about it for ramblings. Oh…we are in Hiawassee…right…today was our first day for a hitch. We came into Dicks Creek Gap and there was Cob who had been ahead of us this morning and he’d been waiting awhile (while eating an apple…um, yeah, I wanted an apple!). A couple of cars came by and we decided we’d try to dig out the number for the shuttle we saw in the Deep Gap shelter book when we realized we didn’t have service, but then another car came out and we stuck our thumbs out and they stopped! It was a older man and woman from NC who were out driving for the day and they were very friendly and dropped us off at the Blueberry Patch Hostel. The BPH is pretty nice, very friendly and they even do your laundry for you! Hello…awesome! Our box was there when we got there. Got a nice shower and Gary even drove us into town to get Mexican food for lunch. That was good. We are going to wander around town for a few more hours, eat dinner and hitch a ride back to the hostel.

Tomorrow we’ll be heading for NC. We will get two nights (one day) at Fontana Dam when Chris’ mom and step-dad meet up with us so I can do more blogging then. Not sure if I will have a chance between now and then or not so I am going to schedule a few posts ahead of time so you will be entertained. 🙂

Oh, and there is such a thing as hiking sickness. It’s very similar to sea sickness. I keep feeling like I am walking up a hill while I am sitting here. Kinda unpleasant.

🙂 Love to you all.

Neels Gap


Well, we have made the first 30 miles. I’ll be semi-brief.

The Approach Trail kinda sucked. The last mile it started sleeting hard up to Springer. We stayed for about 15 minutes on the top where a ridge runner was taking a poll of hikers and he told us we could make it to Stover Creek about 2.5 miles downhill..WOO! The downhill was nice.

We stayed there that night with a bunch of other hikers and a group of Scouts who were too prepared and carried too much weight. It snowed a little bit while making dinner.

We headed out of Stover Creek the next morning and walked a nice couple of miles in flat/downhill terrain, through a nice rainforest-esque type climate. Hit a hard uphill to Hawk Mtn shelter where we had lunch. Then hoofed it to Horse Gap and up a then unknown mountain named Sassafrass Mtn which was a complete beyotch. It doesn’t help that we still have a runny nose from the wind and have obtained a slight cough. After all of that we made it to Gooch Mtn Shelter for the second night. Same folks there and a few others as well. Nice areas with privies and water sources.

Yesterday we woke up to finally a break in the clouds! Sunshine! Well, for most of the day. Near Woody Gap there was a rough wind blowing through the gaps and it was pretty brutal. We weren’t sure if we’d make it to Woods Hole or Blood Mountain Shelter. Blood Mountain is the highest point south of Clingmans Dome. We had a dinner break before the hike up the mountain because I was zapped of energy and then we hit the mountain. The wind was howling and there was a combination of snow/sleet/ice on the mountain. Most people stayed at a campsite down below but we were the only nuts who kept on going. It was pretty rough up there, no one else at the shelter, a stone building erected eons ago. Had a few snacks, put up the tent and got in. Surprisingly we got pretty warm in the tent, though we were on a slight hill and I kept falling into Chris.

Oh, the only other person to come up was a guy bagging all the 4K peaks on the AT. This morning a few people made it to the top just as we were leaving and the clouds began to break for a nice sunny walk down the hill. The south face is pretty easy compared to the north face…it would have been brutal. We missed a blaze and ended up going down a rock face we didn’t have to…oh well. Climbed back up and found the trail again.

Rolled into Mountain Crossing before lunch to burgers *MMMM* and got a nice shower (hot/cold…aka very short) and now will do a small load of laundry and pick up a few essentials. Got our food drop, too.

So far all is well. Hips hurt on the downhills, calves ache on the uphills. *no blister yet* Keep those fingers crossed. Feeling good…four days or so and we’ll be in Hiawassee.

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