The light rises very quickly after 7. In the span of 15 minutes my much needed headlamp looked foolish. Rockman, Snuggles, Baldwin and I hit the trail around 8. We have been hiking pretty spread out and decided to stay together for the day. Snuggles wanted to play a categories game where you start with a subject and, running through the alphabet, take turns quickly coming up with something in the subject for your given letter (an example would be subject Animals: anteater, baboon, cat…). The game keeps you on your toes but the punishment for not having a word keeps it spicy. When you have no word, your friends get to pick any question in the world to ask you. Since we are guys and on trail naturally none of the questions, let alone the answers, can be repeated. I learned more about Rockman and Snuggles’ sexual histories and instances of public nudity than I had expected. It proved to be a great game to keep you laughing while crunching fatty miles.
I learned more about Rockman and Snuggles’ sexual histories and instances of public nudity than I had expected.
During our trail antics Rockman and I bet he could make bird noises over every water source in North Carolina. We bet one face slap, half strength, at anytime from the end of the bet until someones death. I won 30 minutes after we shook so I get to slap his blonde beardface. I’ll try to save it for Katahdin.
The climb up standing Indian was longer than expected but was a very manageable grade. I love this section because it reminds me of working as a ranger and the last tour of the season with Ryan.
I’m never scared of bears, but I’m always scared of fire towers.
At the top I immediately recognized a single pack sitting alone on the small bald. Andrea, redubbed Caboose, was taking in the beautiful summit and waiting for us. I spent most of the morning convinced she was gone. I didn’t expect to be so happy she wasn’t. Foreshadowing: trouble.
We hiked on to Carter gap shelter and made an early camp. Hikers streamed in quickly with the clouds turning more ominous. Rain was coming, so naturally the thru-hiker ants filed into the shelters. A past hiker, Treebeard, was camping there too and slapped us across the face with beer and sausage (in-camp trail magic!). It was an amazing treat to my bland egg noodle, green pepper and spice kit dinner. On top of him being an angel he was also currently living in Durham. Turns out he lives about a mile away from my brother’s house and went to grad school with an old exgirlfriend. Small and wonderful world.
The next day the storm hit early. A spitting rain started and stopped all morning as we packed up and trickled on trail individually. We met up throughout the day and planned to stop just before town to avoid a hotel, so as to be ready to strike in the morning with gusto. I met up with snuggles before our big climb of the day, Mt Albert. The approach was the same up and down ridge line but finishes hand over fist. With the rain all morning the steep rocks were slick, kicking the trail difficulty up sky high. Finally we hit the top and illegally tried to climb the fire tower. The top hatch was locked so we endured 3 flights of sketchy stairs for the fun of it. I’m never scared of bears, but I’m always scared of fire towers. We pushed on to the shelter before our destination to find the rain picking up. Rockman made a pot of coffee, hot chocolate, and carnation instant breakfast that could have been used for rocket fuel. We slammed the hot drink and jittered for the last 4 miles. Without the excessive caffeine and heat I would have stayed in the beautiful shelter like many of my peers. I love the sight of fearful looks swaddled in 6 sleeping bags as you step into a storm. No rain no Maine.
Treebeard, was camping there too and slapped us across the face with beer and sausage
Rock gap was filled up until a cool and timely cat drove by honking saying they had hostel space. Six folks rolled out fast leaving us shelter space. Rockman, Caboose and I hit the shelter expecting to see snuggles waiting for us. Much to our dismay he kept hiking past the end point. None of us had his number and hoped we would see him early tomorrow.
Around 6 JellyBelly said he was going to run to town with his mom (being from Bryson city means your mom can come pick you up on the trail) but he’d be back. We gave him some beer money only to reunite and see he had doubled our money, returning with not just beer but pizza. Trail magic has been so good to our group. We ate a dinner’s worth of pizza on top of our previous dinners, and washed it down with some of Asheville Brewing Company’s finest ales. It rained that night but I enjoyed a very dry shelter next to Caboose. We spent the night kicking the sorry Bastard who decided to sleep with his face to our feet (sorry Rockman).
I hope we find snuggles tomorrow.
Southern Nantahala Wilderness
Managing Body: United States Forest Service – Chattahoochee, Nantahala, and Sumner National Forest
Legal Foundation: Federally Designated Wilderness 1984
Size: 23,473 acres
Features: Standing Indian
Maintainers: GATC, Nantahala hiking club, Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards mountain, 360 views of the southern Appalachians