Note: No service again.
I woke up early, warm in my sleeping bag, but cold in my tent. Spotty cell coverage has prevented any of us from consistently checking the weather, but it looks like the rumors we’ve been hearing of an approaching cold from are true.
I retrieved our bear bags and packed up quickly in the early morning light. I needed to cover as much ground as possible today and tomorrow in order to make it to Franklin, NC on Sunday. I visited the privy one last time and took off.
After a quick up and over As Knob, the trail gradually starts gaining elevation. I paused about two miles before the GA/NC border and had a quick breakfast. I’d been thinking about crossing that border all morning now. As Savage put it, moving into another state makes you a “thru-hiker”.
The three of us met at the border sign and had a quick break. North Carolina was impressive right out of the gate. The gradual ascent out of GA gave way to much steeper grade. In the 1.5 miles it took to reach the summit of Courthouse Bald, my first summit in NC, I had gained a thousand feet in elevation. And it was noticeably colder.
Another cool thing about leaving GA is I’m also leaving the Chattahoochee National Forest and entering the Nantahala Wilderness. Forestry service roads are still closed from winter. We’re pretty remote.
I decided I was going to have lunch and get water 6 miles ahead at Deep Gap. It was another case of headphones in and moving on.
As I hiked today, I noticed a few things. First, the plants. Spring has still not come to higher elevations. The only green you see aside from moss and small patches of grass is from rhododendron, holly or pine trees – and they’re few and far between to begin with.
I also noticed that, as I was gaining elevation in NC, the mountains were getting larger in size. There seem to be fewer small peaks and much longer ascents and descents than I’m used to.
I started getting really hungry about a mile before hitting Deep Gap, but I rode it out. By the time I arrived, I was starving. I ate and ate and ate. It was great.
After about half and hour, Savage emerged from the woods with Kodak, a nice guy who’s also hiking with a camera. And soon after them, Kool-Aid joined us. While we had hoped to make it up and over Standing Indian Mountain, it was decided that we should camp on top. The timing was working out such that we should have plenty of time to set up camp on the summit and watch the sunset.
Man, I’m glad I did. I’m also glad I brought my camera – I finally put it to good use. I can’t wait to get some of the pics of the sunset up. It was truly incredible.
Apparently, Savage, Kool-Aid and Kodak were able to convince Canuck to bypass the shelter and camp with us in the clouds. So there’s five of us tonight.
This’ll probably be one of the highest campsites I experience on the entire AT at 5400 feet. There’s a fair amount of wind and it is really cold outside – again, don’t know exactly, but I’d imagine close to freezing.
Today was a hard day hiking – by far the hardest I’ve had yet. We had a few small rock scrambles. It’s like the AT trains you, like the trail was designed to slowly give you skills in the beginning that you’ll need to master before moving on to the next harder section. Gone are the volunteers at the shelters. I guess the ATC assumes that, if you made it this far, you’re probably good to go.
Tomorrow’s gonna be all about covering ground. I do want to check out the fire tower on Albert Mountain. In all, it’s 21.9 miles to Winding Stair Gap, and a ride into Franklin, NC. That’s a lot of miles to cover. I may have to stop a few miles short, but at least I’ll be close to the road crossing on Sunday morning.
I am pleased with my right knee – seems to be doing a little better. The bandana brace is working. I met a doctor who confirmed I just need to slow down a little. My feet are looking great, too. I’ll prob skip on buying boots in Franklin.
I’m getting really tired – I’m hoping to be up at 5:30 to start hiking.
Breakfast – Laura Lynn Virginia Creeper trail mix (whole bag)
Snack – Handful of almonds
Lunch – about two cups almonds, half cup dried cranberries, the last of my beef jerky, 2 Little Debbie Nutty Bars.
Dinner – salmon and couscous with a creamy pesto sauce.