Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Appalachian Trail 2016 Update 2: Hiawassee GA to Fontana Village NC

May 5 to May 10
Start Location: Hiwassee GA (mile 69.6)
End Location: Fontana Village NC (mile 164.7)
Total Miles Hiked: 164.7
Miles Left: 2024.4
Miles Since Last Update: 95.1

May 5
Start Location: Dick's Creek Gap (mile 69.6)
End Location: Standing Indian Shelter (mile 86.3)
Total Miles: 16.7

I was standing on the side of the road for less than 5 minutes before I got a ride out of Hiawassee, back to Dick's Creek Gap.  I was back on the trail around 10:00 am, a little better than I was hoping for.  For most of the day the weather was sort of indecisive.  At times the sky was sunny and warm, and then moments later dark ominous clouds would roll in.  There was light rain on and off throughout the day.

I finished the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail after a few hours.  I took a selfie at the border and then took a good break at Bly Gap where there was a really cool looking tree.

At the North Carolina border

Gnarly tree at Bly Gap
As I was climbing Courthouse Bald there was a pretty nasty hail storm, but it only lasted for about 15 minutes.  I made good time to Standing Indian Shelter, getting in with just enough daylight left to set up my tent.

May 6
Start Location: Standing Indian Shelter (mile 86.3)
End Location: Campsite past Winding Stair Gap (mile 110.1)
Total Miles: 23.8

It got to about freezing at night, and the cold persisted through to the morning.  As a result I could not get motivated to get out of my tent at a decent time, and I ended up getting a 9:30 am start.

The day featured the strenuous scramble up Albert Mountain where I injured my knee in 2013.  I'm happy to say that this time the climb was incident free.  There was a decent view at the top, so I lingered for a while.

View from Albert Mountain Summit

I stopped for a short break at Long Branch Shelter and then decided to push on, despite the fading light.  I made about 7.5 miles in 3 hours, flying into my campsite just past Winding Stair Gap.  There was a "no camping sign" there, but after doing nearly 24 miles I wasn't prepared to go half a mile farther.  So yeah, this trip is turning me into a delinquent rule breaker.

May 7
Start Location: Campsite past Winding Stair Gap (mile 110.1)
End Location: Campsite just before summit of Wesser Bald (mile 131)
Total Miles: 20.9

After the long day I had on the 6th, I ended up sleeping in and getting another 10:00 am start.  A bad trend was beginning to form.

I made Siler Bald in good time, but I had a really tough time climbing Wayah Bald.  The view from the top was nice, and I got to enjoy it with a number of fellow Canadians (Pancake and Map Man from Montreal, Avacado from Nova Scotia, and two hikers from Ontario).  I had a bowl of miso soup to celebrate making the summit, and immediately regretted only having bought one package of the soup.

Tower on Wayah Bald

View from Wayah Bald
I started to have some severe issues with my left little toe.  It had swollen up quite a bit and was forming some nasty blisters.  I did my best to treat it, but it would continue to nag me.

I made it to Cold Spring Shelter at mile 125.6, the point I quit at in 2013.  There was absolutely no one there, so I was able to have a private moment to myself to reflect on things.

I pushed on, eventually stopping part way up the climb up Wesser Bald.  I was considering going further, but it was dark and I wanted to have a view on the summit the next day.

May 8
Start Location: Campsite just before summit of Wesser Bald (mile 131)
End Location: Sassafras Gap Shelter (mile 144)
Total Miles: 13

I got another 10:00 am start.  My sleeping in was officially a problem.  Fellow thru-hiker Brad told me there was trail magic (an offering for hikers) at Tellico Gap, about a mile back of my campsite.  I didn't want to backtrack that much, so I assumed I was going to miss out.  However, Brad shared a yellow powerade that he got at the gap.  It helped me with the ensuing climb, and was definitely a very welcome surprise.

View from Wesser Bald

From the summit of Wesser I had a steep descent into the Nantahala Outdoor Centre.  The NOC is an outfitter on a road crossing.  I topped up my food supply there, and then went to the restaurant for lunch.  I got a massive greek salad that raised my spirits, and got me ready for the 3000 foot climb ahead of me.

The climb was long and hard, but I made it to Sassafrass Gap Shelter just before dark, aided by a bottle of Coke I packed in from the NOC.  I soaked my left foot in the creek at the shelter, and immediately felt a world of improvement.

For dinner I had a freeze dried yellow Thai vegetarian curry I bought at the NOC.  It wasn't quite restaurant quality, but it was pretty good.

May 9
Start Location: Sassafras Gap Shelter (mile 144)
End Location: Cable Gap Shelter (mile 159.2)
Total Miles: 15.1

Once again I got a late start, leaving at 10:00 am.  I swore to myself that I would fix this problem.

As I put my sleeping pad out of my tent, it rolled down the hill I was camped on, nearly going into a creek.  That would have really sucked.

I had a sluggish climb up Cheoah Bald, but the view from the top was worth it.

View from Cheoah Bald

At Locust Cove Gap I met a group of 3 hikers, 2 from Seattle and 1 from South Carolina.  It was interesting to see people who lived so close to me who had travelled this far out.  The Appalachian Mountains definitely draw people from all over.

At Stecoah Gap there was trail magic in the form of bottled water and fruit.  I ate an apple and a couple of strawberries, and then put a banana in my pack to help me on the climb up Jacob's Ladder.

I forgot one of my water bottles at the gap, but one of the hikers from Seattle was nice enough to take it and give it to me when he caught up.

I had dinner at Brown Fork Gap shelter and then pushed on to Cable Gap Shelter, about 6 miles down the trail.  I got in after dark which was becoming as common for me as my late starts.

May 10
Start Location: Cable Gap Shelter (mile 159.2)
End Location: Fontana 28 AT Crossing (mile 164.7)
Total Miles: 5.5

Finally breaking my tradition of late starts, I was up at 4:00 am and on the trail at 5:00 am.  I made excellent time to the Highway 28 crossing.  I didn't realize there was a shuttle into Fontana Village, so I ended up walking an additional 2 miles into the resort.

Fontana Village is a really cool mountain resort, and I definitely wish I had more time to spend here (I'm just spending 1 night).  I got a good breakfast at the restaurant (3 pancakes and some bacon), took a bath, got my permit for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, did my laundy and topped up my food (and the store in Fontana wasn't as expensive as I was expecting), and then went to lunch at the grill, getting a massive taco salad and a bowl of chili.

I intend to have a big dinner tonight and maybe a few more showers.  As soon as I wake up tomorrow, the luxury is over as I am faced with a long 3000 foot climb into the Smokys, where my adventure will continue.

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