Franklin’s Tower

My first night of the trip in a shelter was a success. I stayed dry, didn’t wake up snuggling with a mouse, and I was up and ready for a quick run to town. I was last out of the shelter but it gave me an opportunity to meet a new friend, a beautiful trail dog that has been anxious around strangers who want to touch its face constantly. I sat down slow as Jelly Belly and his pup partner Alice came up from a lower camp. I watched sideways as she tip-toed over, smelling me out. I smiled at her once or twice (no teeth), but never held eye contact. I slowly extended my hand which was warmly met by her tongue. I spent the next 20 minutes scratching off her winter coat while talking to Jelly Belly about his stand-up paddle boarding business. The morning brought much needed dog therapy and another new friend. It was rainy and cold but the motivation of Franklin was enough to light a fire under the remaining 4 miles.

Minutes later I was staring in every direction, appreciating being completely surrounded by mountains.

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I hiked fast, chasing my friends to winding stair gap. We bunched up toward the end and caught a Ninja Turtle on the way. In the last hundred yards we took to yelling for snuggles. I didn’t think he’d go into town alone but we hadn’t seen any sign of his camp.

We hit the gap to find the road wet, frigid, and terribly windy. Hitch hiking was shit (wet hikers don’t jive well with dry cars) so we waited an hour for the shuttle. In the mist and soggy sorrow a long haired man with a stern jaw line and biceps that looked like thighs came from the other side of the road. He told us how Snuggles thought we’d gone ahead so he had pushed for the road last night. Seems like the exact time we worried he’d gone further, he was thinking the same.

We packed Ron Haven’s tour bus and headed down the hill. I’d heard about his Franklin town spirit and didn’t care for his car salesman style of delivery. He’s happy to bring people into his town to spend money so he puts on a smile and uses thru hiker diction. His shuttle was seemingly free (its called the free hiker shuttle) but only if you were staying at one of his roach motels (which I have endured previously). When we asked him directions to the Microtel at which Snuggles had made a reservation when he thought he was orphaned, Ron promptly told us he regretted giving us a ride. He booted us out in front of a Mexican restaurant. For hikers, Mexican restaurants make great drop-off points.

After a fat meal and a gallon of beer for the table, we started walking across town. In the first hundred feet of our two mile walk a shuttle pulled over and scooped us up for a dollar a head. The driver was a delightful woman named Cathy who told it like it is. She helped us figure out town and gave us several rides throughout the day. She was so sweet I called her supervisor from the hotel.

Laundry in Franklin

The rest of the day was standard issue town stuff. The routine involves exploding your stuff all over a perfectly nice room, making it forever unclean, washing yourself, washing some clothes, getting food supplies, and drinking. We capped our evening off with some Huddle House (fool’s waffle house) at 10pm. We split into two rooms with the girls Ninja Turtle and Caboose on the second floor, leaving the studs by the lobby.

Rock and I loaded up some plates, putting cream cheese on stuff that rarely saw it and chugging juice

You get up fast when you don’t have to dig a poop hole and breakfast is free and not 50 feet away. Rock and I loaded up some plates, putting cream cheese on stuff that rarely saw it and chugging juice. After we returned to start packing up the mess of our room. Rockman decided to put on his favorite packing song, the great R Kelly’s Trapped in a Closet. He knew a lot of words and surprisingly had the pipes to nail the high notes. He is now known as Rock Kelly.

We got a shuttle back to the trail head with a dozen thru-hiking friends. Half of the group hit the trailhead and started hiking right away. Our family chatted for a minute about our remaining 6 beers. Rock and I spotted a guy doing trail magic a few hundred feet away at the trailhead and got hiking.

We climbed steadily before hitting Siler bald. The best choice I made was to “day camp” a few hours into hiking.  A half mile side trail went to the summit, though most people kept going. I dropped my pack and popped my shirt off as I galloped up the hill. Minutes later I was staring in every direction, appreciating being completely surrounded by mountains.

Wayah Tower

I hiked with Caboose a bit more on the way to Wayah tower and the shelter we’d stay at. She’s a delightful women that seems light hearted yet undoubtedly strong. I was initially drawn to her and hadn’t felt a change. Good thing is I have nothing but time to get to know someone. If you still want to be around them after a few days you have something special.

A few hours after we started we met a familiar face from the morning, the old man giving trail magic that we had given our beers to at the last trail head. I promptly grabbed one and thanked him for slack packing the beer. That warm PBR got me up a stiff hill.

Wayah shelter was packed. Turns out everyone planned a similar day out of Franklin. I thought about sleeping on the ground with a pending frost but softened and decided to take up a friend’s offer to share a tent. I don’t normally like close quarters but I made an exception.

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