Apparently the rest of the expedition has lost faith in my leadership and I have been hiking alone for 17 days. It could be worse as seen in a comment on a British officer’s performance report, “The troops will follow him anywhere. Mostly out of curiosity.” The solitude is enjoyable and my pace is beginning to get faster. In a few days I’ll attempt to plan out a week’s hiking to determine when I’ll be where approximately. I’ll anchor myself near Franklin, NC for a couple of days while I get back into the groove.
My first hint of “hiker hunger” came about when I ordered a second country fried steak dinner at the Huddle House and then got ice cream. Can someone tell me how bad it gets? My only reference for incessant feeding urges are vampire and zombie movies. As for the “hiker hygiene “ I’ll keep myself in check. If you smell like an opossum that has been beaten up by a skunk, in a dumpster, behind a seafood restaurant in Mobile, Alabama in late July, you have stayed at the party too long. A few decades ago, while on desert training, I wore the same uniform for 12 days until reaching a shower point. That uniform was put in a waterproof bag and put with my other gear in an armored personnel carrier. Upon returning to home base three weeks later, I took the bag to the laundry and opened the bag. I immediately closed the bag and walked out to the trash bin. There was a violation of the chemical weapons treaty in that bag. See the Scottish colloquialism “manky.”
Onwards and forwards.
I walked this section SOBO so as to increase the opportunity run across another thru hiker and to increase my chances of hitchhiking back into Franklin. More on that shortly. The hike itself took four hours and the scenery was beautiful. I had the nice experience of encountering eight day hikers and took opportunity to share brief conversations. A father and daughter pair, Bear and Butterfly, from Australia were the brightest part of my day. Butterfly is a big warrior in a tiny frame.
The winding upward hike to Siler Bald was peaceful upon reaching the top I was rewarded with the open vista that the clear day provided. It has been a continuum of beauty thus far. I will continue to thank all who have encouraged me to take it slow and enjoy the journey. The ascent down to Winding Stair Gap was accentuated by a few places with blow down across the trail. Usually having a 32 inch inseam takes care if it, but not here.
The water flow near the gap is worth spending extra time here very soothing. Happy with the day I walked across the road and put my thumb out. Shiny vehicle after shiny vehicle flew by. Having not done this for many years I entertained myself by watching the drivers pretending not to look. Maybe I’m large and scary, or perhaps my shins were ashy. I gave up and called a shuttle. It was after this short hike that the two country fried steak dinners were consumed. I need to monitor my food intake.
Day 16 Wayah Crest to Tellico Gap
This is my favorite day on the trail. It is challenging on the way up, but a few things I had been told about waited for me. On the way to Wayah Bald there is a short Blue Blaze that crossed a Forest Service road and there is the historic Wilson Lick Ranger Station. I’ll leave it to you to look it up and read the history of the place. The remaining buildings sat as a quiet reminder of the activity and life that once filled the station.
I hardly noticed the trail as I thought of the past and in anticipation of seeing the stone tower at Wayah Bald. It does not disappoint. The history and views are worth a day by themselves. Another clear day to look at the vast expanse. Again, I’m making reels of some stuff and putting it on my social media. Disclaimer-I make no money off of social media.
The trail through Cold Springs and Burningtown Gap was some of the best seen thus far. Lengths of snow here and there are enough to keep me awake. The water sources are plentiful and I didn’t have to worry about running short. The descent to Tellico Gap let me coast to the end of my hiking day.
Day 17 Tellico Gap to NOC
Walking upwards the first point of note, aside from the constant glory of nature, is the Wesser Bald Tower. It is an open platform viewing area that provides 360 degrees of great views. I’m not real fond of heights and for a moment I was flashing back to being up the Eiffel Tower. I slowly climbed the stairs and though I knew the structure would hold, my steps were still very carefully placed. I would have started up there longer but for the height thingy.
It was after this the day got interesting. My friend Heidi, who has hiked the White Mountains since youth, described a day’s hike like this as;
“Our hike today was a great deal of up, followed by some serious straight the (place your descriptor here) down!”
There are places on this long descent to NOC that if you go too fast and miss the curve, a bunch of continual downward impact awaits.
I heard the traffic long before I saw the road. Focused on the variety of trail surfaces from rocks to steps to rocks again kept my attention. Finally, a place that has been part of my dream, Nantahala Outdoor Center.
Water flowing through the middle of the compound and anticipation of a meal at the restaurant and a comfortable room at lodging. While a place of passage on the trail, NOC for most is an activity and vacation destination. I slept happily with another milestone to be thankful for.
With each passing mile I am happy how small I feel compared to all this creation. At the end of this journey I hope the trail remembers my smile.
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