Location: Franklin NC
Total Miles Hiked: 109.8
Total Days: 10
Miles Since Last Update: 40.2
Days Since Last Update: 4
Beard Status: Maybe I haven't hit puberty yet
Pain Status: My feet are a little messed up, but otherwise I can't complain
I forgot to mention in my last update that I've been given my trail name. In honour of my mother's maiden name, I'm going to be known as Noel for the duration of my trip.
I enjoyed my day off in Hiawassee. I was able to dry my things out, do some laundry, get some shopping done (I bought a lot of junk food), take a shower, and eat more Subway than I would have thought humanly possible. I enjoyed my time on the trail, but a full day off was huge for me.
The next day (February 27) I got dropped off at Dick's Creek Gap (mile 69.6) again. The climb up Buzzard Knob was tough, but overall I felt pretty good. I was kind of concerned since on one side of the ridge it looked ready to storm, but the other side was all blue skies. Luckily I ended up walking into the good side. Around mile 79 I crossed the Georgia/North Carolina border. One down, thirteen more to go. I celebrated with a nice Knorr Pasta Side (aka cheap college student crap). Once I got going again the wind really started to go. It blew some frozen bits of snow off the trees, making it kind of feel like it was snowing. The climb over Courthouse Bald really took a lot out of me, but I felt like my endurance was improving. I was going to camp at Standing Indian Shelter, but it looked like a big storm was about to hit, so I stealth camped right before the shelter (around mile 86.3). This was probably a good decision, since what I heard from Bub was that the shelter offered very little protection. It snowed pretty good all night and the wind was intense, but I was quite cozy in my tent (I had to get up every few hours to knock snow off it though).
The big challenge the next day was getting my tent down. To put it in perspective I got up at 5:00 AM and didn't break camp until just before 8:00. The stakes were frozen into the ground, and I was not prepared to leave them there. I got my hands pretty cold in the process of taking the tent down. I was a little disappointed because I wanted to make it to mile 106, but I knew I would have to settle for mile 102. There were light flurries all day, but overall the weather was okay. The climb up Albert Mountain was intense (straight up icy rocks), but the view from the fire tower at the top was really nice. The shelter at mile 102 (Long Branch Shelter) was made last year, so it was very clean (even the privy was nice). I camped there with fellow thru-hikers Hilton and Grandpa. Grandpa (who thru-hiked in 2011) told me that the shelter at 106 was the worst shelter on the trail for mice, so I'm kind of glad I didn't make it there. He also gave me a bunch of food as he wanted to lose some pack weight. It got really, really cold that night, but overall it was a good day.
It was painful to get out of my sleeping bag that morning. Everything was completely frozen. My water bottles were frozen, my boots were frozen, parts of my sleeping bag were frozen, even my pop tarts were frozen. Grandpa gave me some of his coffee (because he's really awesome) which helped me wake up. Once I got going it was a nice short hike to Winding Stair Gap (mile 109.8). Me and Bub got a ride from a minister who was dropping off members of a youth program at the trail. He was super nice and actually went out of his way to drive us right to the Budget Inn. I got lunch at Dominos Pizza (2 medium pizzas and 6 bottles of coke... I'm not kidding) and then went shopping. On the advice of Grandpa, I've decided to skip the next 3 resupply points (Fontana Dam, NOC, and Gatlinburg), since apparently they are all extremely expensive (think 2.00 for a package of ramen expensive). As a result, I'm loading my pack up with about 10 days of food, so it is going to be incredibly heavy. The amount of food I carry per day is nearly twice as much as when I started, so I'm looking at a ludicrous pack weight for the next few days. Tonight I'm just going to relax with my raspberries, blueberries, doritos, and milk (I bought the four things I was badly craving). Tomorrow I'll be back on the trail.
North Carolina has been very cold, but overall the terrain is much easier than Georgia. I'm hoping that I can start stringing together lots of big days, and maybe not spend too much time in the Smokies, where it will certainly be painfully cold each night. I won't be doing another update until at least Hot Springs (8-10 days), but until then, I hope everyone is doing okay and enjoying their oatmeal to the fullest.