Day 14. Another week in the books! Looking back at the montage video, the common theme is definitely COLD. That and (mostly) incredible summit views, once again. As I say somewhere in this video, Georgia and North Carolina do not disappoint!
Besides today’s Week 2 Video (coming soon, need WiFi), here’s a quick recap of today and it’s difficult 16.7 mile hike to The NOC.
First of all, this was BY FAR the coldest night and day on the trail. For those with hammock quilts, do not ever attempt to sleep in a shelter in this weather. I did, against my better judgement, and spent the entire night awake. The problem with a hammock top quilt like I have, is that it does not fully zip you in like a mummy bag. That is great in warm nights but dreadful on cold ones. Every toss and turn opens up an air hole for bitter cold to sneak in. Jolting you awake. Also, my very small/flimsy Z-Lite pad, the ground is forever cold as well. It dropped to the teens last night, and I simply couldn’t do anything to stay warm and asleep.
But great news! It stayed cold all morning! Usually it warms up around 10am, but today it stayed freezing as we walked through snow and wind until at least 3pm. I had to keep my thermals on almost all day, which are my sleeping clothes, but had no other choice.
Side note, the best piece of gear I own is by far my Patagonia M1 Hoodie fleece. This sweater has a 3/4 zip so it breathes really well when you get hot, but the hoodie secures tight around your head like a balaclava when it’s cold. It’s super versatile, very warm, and fast drying. I was originally going to send it home in Damascus, but not anymore! This baby is going to Maine.
During today’s hike, we had some fantastic views today from Wesser Bald and a place called “The Jumpoff”. In addition, we ran in to some great trail magic at Tellico Gap – Brooklyn and Bisquick, thruhikers from the class of 2017, were helping out on their drive to NY and had some great goodies for hikers: coffee, beer, donuts, water, fruit, chips, and more. By this point my frozen water bottles had turned to more of a slush, so I forced out the ice and refilled with their water which was thankfully in liquid form. A beer, a banana and some fruit also hit the spot. Thank you trail angels!
The climb down to the NOC was crazy steep, rocky, and dangerous. I almost kissed the hike goodbye when a misstep caused me to roll an ankle and jettison off the narrow ledge. Thankfully a tree 3 feet down the embankment saved me … but it was almost a very bad situation. Fun Facts and Heuvos witnessed and would have been forced to carry a very broken Sharkbait down the mountains, if not for that perfectly placed tree. The next few miles were taken veeeeery slowly and eventually our destination was reached.
What to say about The NOC? It’s the sole oasis at the US 19&74 road crossing, and resembles a poorly designed theme park at Wisconsin Dells or Dollywood. It is an outdoor recreation center, with a couple restaurants, white water rafting and kayaking area, ropes course, general store, and lodging and more. The cabins, though, are way up the hill and basically just wooden boxes with shelves built in as bunk beds. Each will sleep 4, but we squeezed in 5 anyways. The shower is 100 ft below us, making for a frustrating climb once clean. It’s hardly worth the $100 price tag, but it’s also the only option. It does have a heater, however, so we are all content.
We had a nice dinner with fellow hikers, about 12 total are here. Including Culligan, who has been leapfrogging with us all week, and Ground Score … a guy who was staff at Gooder Grove Hostel when we first arrived a few days ago. Apparently that place and it’s owner were even crazier than we thought, as he had to sneak out in the middle of the night for fear Zen would steal his gear and force him to work the whole season!
Side note, finally met up with Jack and Arnon (Tarzan) here as well. I know his parents were following my blog and asking if I met up with them yet, well I finally have! Great guys hiking with a young girl named Happy Feet. Looks like we may al be headed to Sassafras Gap Shelter tonight. A brisk 7 miles straight up 3,000 ft.
Culligan made his way to our cabin later at night with beer, and we enjoyed a recap of stories from the day. Everyone is doing well, though a bit beat up from the 15 mile day, so we will have a delayed start tomorrow. Besides, the general store opens at 10am and I need a spoon!
- Start Mile: 120.2
- Start Time: 09:40
- End Mile: 136.7
- End Time: 17:40
- Miles Hiked: 16.7
- Miles to Go: 2054.2
- Lodging: Nantahala Outdoor Center