Day 14 – Wednesday, March 23: Wesser Bald Shelter to Sassafras Gap Shelter, 12.6 miles, 144.0 total AT miles.

I woke up warm and cozy in the shelter – it really wasn’t that bad. As I visited the privy, Kool-Aid and Canuck backtracked a mile to the fire tower on Wesser Bald to watch the sunrise. I returned to the shelter to pack while Kodak slept.

The four of us had a lengthy breakfast and got started around 9:00. I wasn’t looking forward to the hike today. I’ve got two resources I use to check where I’m going, paying close attention to elevation changes.

I’ve got the A.T. Guide – a paperback book of elevation charts and trail town maps. This is what I was looking at this morning:

  

 
The two circled spots represent today’s start and finish. My dirty thumb is the N.O.C. I also use the Guthook’s AT Guide app on my iPhone. It is GPS enabled and tracks me – in this case, I’m the blue dot on the right (in my tent at Sassafras Gap), the N.O.C. is in the valley, and the orange icon on the left represents the shelter I woke up in this morning (at Wesser Bald).

  
Note: The above screenshot looks huge using my WordPress app. Moving on.

So I use both of these resources to plan my day, look for water, prepare for tough hikes, etc. I was not looking forward to today’s hike – I feel like I may have said this a lot, but today was, by far, the hardest day yet.

About a 1.5 miles from camp, I caught an amazing view of the day to come.

 

I’m camped somewhere on that ridge line in the background.
 
The descent into the N.O.C. was really hard on my right knee. I took it slow. In no time, I was passed by my hiking buddies and stayed at the end all day.

The N.O.C. itself was smaller than I imagined. I was able to have a hot lunch at the restaurant and buy some necessities at the outfitter. It felt good to scour the store and not come away with any major purchases.

At 3:00, I started the 6.5 mile, 3000 foot climb up. There were few breaks in the terrain.

 

Straight up Cheoah Bald. The trail was rocky like this for a large portion of the hike.
 
The sun was setting as I wound my way down into Sassafras Gap. It was packed. I seriously hadn’t seen this many tents packed into a campsite since that thunderstorm at Lance Creek, the day before I summited Blood Mountain.

Fitting then that I run into Alex, the hiker who attacked Blood Mountain in the dark, the fog and the rain at 5:00am with Savage and me about ten days ago.

It’s cool seeing a familiar face who shared a brief, but completely spectacular, experience. Apparently Alex saw Savage today, who’s now a good day ahead of us – she’s still planning on meeting us at Fontana though.

After my no-cook snack dinner, I hung out by the campfire with a group I had never met before – all good folks. I met a couple this morning, and again tonight, where he had to get off the trail because of knee problems last year. Really puts those early huge mile days into perspective.

Tonight, the four guys I’ve been hiking with are spread out all over this makeshift camp. I’m planning on waking early and hiking out a mile to have breakfast on the summit of Cheoah Bald to catch the sunrise.

It was a full moon tonight – an orange one at that. Folks have been catching a tandem moonset/sunrise combo lately. I’ve seen pictures – it looks amazing. I really hope I’m up early enough to see it for myself.

I had to set up my tent in the dark, on a hill, at the base of this big tree. The tree is preventing me from rolling downhill, you see. I’m kind of tacoed in here, but it works.

Breakfast: breakfast mix

Lunch: The Sherpa with Chicken – rice, lentils, broccoli, mushroom, onion. It was awesome.

  
Dinner: too late/dark to cook so two bags of beef jerky, breakfast mix, the rest of the chocolate bunny, one bag of peanut M&Ms.

Money:

$9.95 plus $5.05 tip for lunch at the N.O.C

$44.43 for some stickers and a patch, a stabilizer for my fuel canisters, some Darn Tough hiking socks (A.T. Edition), some tiny soap sheets, and a pack of butt wipes.

Author: Chris Kummer

Hey y'all - Cool Dad here. Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to thru-hike the AT. It remained a nagging thought for nearly a decade - then it got loud enough to warrant my attention. So I quit my unfulfilling job(s) in Seattle and commenced hiking north from Springer in the spring of 2016. And I'm exceedingly thankful I did. The people I met, the things I saw, the gross foods I ate - not a day goes by without fondly remembering life on the trail. If you've already thru-hiked a long trail, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you're thinking about tackling a long-distance hike, do it. Do it now. I'm probably gonna do it again...

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