Week 2: Days 12-14; North Carolina Line to Nantahalla Outdoor Center

Day 12

We woke up earlier than normal, as we needed to hike 7.2 miles by 10:30 a.m. for our shuttle into town. The hike was relatively easy with only one real climb, and it was fairly brief. We got to Winding Stair Gap for our pickup at 10 but around 10:45 realized our shuttle probably wasn’t coming. A past thruhiker named “Adele” came through, and we hitched a ride into Franklin with him. We checked into Gooder Grove Hostel, which was essentially a 3-bedroom home outfitted with 30 bunk beds (mostly in the basement). A shower is included with our stay, so we didn’t much care and all showered immediately.

Squeaky clean our now group of six: Sherlock, Ben (Achilles), Red Coat, Daniel (Goldilocks), Paul (a newer friend in his mid 40s), and I went downtown. We asked a few ladies shopping for a great place to eat, and they suggested the 50s diner. It did NOT disappoint. We then headed to Outdoor 76, a popular AT outfitter with a legendary shoe God named Rob. I picked up a new daypack that weighs 2.4 oz, and I’m swapping out my clothing stuff sack for it which is heavier. This way I’ll have a town daypack or a slack pack if we get the opportunity to do it again. We each took a turn with Rob, and he measured and examined our feet and asked us a lot of questions about issues we were having. His general advice was to SLOW DOWN! I know he’s right, and I soon hope to honor his advice. I told him about my knees and he asked to see my shoes (which I didn’t have on at the time). I said I’d come back shortly with them.

We did a quick resupply at Ingals and then bought an extra 3-day supply to ship ourselves a Dropbox at Fontana Dam prior to the Smokies. The selection there isn’t always as good and is generally ransacked by hikers leaving poor options left.

We dropped everything off, and I grabbed my shoes, eager to speak to Rob about them and my knee problems. We discovered my shoes and my insoles for plantar fasciitis were fighting each other, causing me to essentially develop Patella Tracking Disorder. PTD is when your patella (kneecap) floats to one side rather than staying straight. This causes a lot of strain on the small connective tissues in the knee. It’s not permanent, nor will it destroy me later, but it’s incredibly painful until corrected. He grabbed a different pair of shoes and new insoles and put them together for me and had me walk around. After 2 minutes, my knee moved nearly pain free and I was in literal awe. A Pedeorthicly trainer shoe salesman is worth his weight in gold, and I’m quite certain he just saved my thruhike! I purchased the new gear and met up with the group at the local pub–The Lazy Hiker–for open mike night.

We returned to the hostel as the clouds opened up into a deluge and settled in for bed. Sadly some hikers thought it would be a great idea to talk incredibly loudly in the next room until 2 a.m., so I had by far my worst night of sleep on my trip. With our nero of 7.2 miles, we are now at 116.9 total miles.

Day 13

We woke up around 6:30 a.m. to catch the shuttle to the First Baptist Church for a FREE all-you-can-eat pancake and bacon breakfast. They easily served 50 hikers today, and they do this every day for a month!

Sharing God’s word and gifts is something I can easily get behind…especially when there’s bacon. The church also has us sign a class of 2018 banner. Then they take our picture and have us write a letter to someone at home to send with it. They do this all out of their love for hikers, and it’s wonderful to see such generosity expressed to our community.

We hit the trail again around 11 planning to go about 10 miles to Wayha Bald Shelter. I arrived around 4:30 p.m., and it was completely packed. I decided to press on to the next campsite 1.5 miles farther. When I got there, it was empty except for one elderly gentleman who said he was on his way to the next shelter another 4 miles down. He had already done 21 miles that day, so I knew I had to keep going with him. I got to Cold Spring Shelter around 6:15 p.m. making it the latest I’ve been out on the trail.

I set up my tent near some other hikers at the very edge of the ridge overlooking Franklin. It’s supposed to get down to 30 degrees again, which means another night sleeping with my water filter and electronics. The sunset up here is excellent, and I look forward to the sunrise outside my tent door in the morning!

Today I trekked 15.8 miles making my new total 132.7.

Day 14

The cold air definitely settled in overnight. I struggled to get out of bed on these days because my clothes are warm. I’ve started pulling my clothes into my sleeping bag for about 30 minutes prior to my alarm to warm them up to help. The sunrise didn’t disappoint!

I stayed at this site without my group, but we planned to meet today at the NOC–Nantahala Outdoor Center and stay the night there. I got some trail magic from a couple handing out little Easter goodie bags of fruit, candy, and a painted Easter hard boiled egg. They also offered to take my trash, which is always appreciated.

There were some really steep and perilous parts of the trail today. Apparently someone fell about 15′ down a cliff side today, and our group came upon him. Paul stayed and helped him as he was a prior fireman. He hurt his back pretty bad but will be okay.

I arrived at the NOC about 2 hours before my group, so I got checked in and spent the time getting in a hot shower and watching the white water kayakers do their runs on the river. When the rest of the group arrived, we ate at the riverside restaurant and we all realized just how hungry we were getting. Many of us ordered two entrees.

I weighed myself the other day, and if the scale was right, I’ve lost 7 pounds already. I did the math with the aid of some online calorie calculators and discovered I’m burning about 5,600 calories each day. I’d have to eat 11 Big Macs each day just to maintain my weight at that rate! I easily eat about half that amount because I just can’t stomach slamming that much food all day. Thankfully that rate will go down, as my pack has lightened about 5 pounds since starting. Plus, since I weigh less, my calories burned will decrease as well. Unfortunately when it gets hotter, I’ll also burn more again…it’s a vicious cycle.

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