Days 15 – 17 (3/15/15 – 3/17/15)

Day 15, 3/15/15

Start: Rock Gap
Finish: Siler Bald Shelter
Miles Hiked: 8
Miles To Go: 2075.2
Overall Miles Hiked: 114

For the first time in two weeks, we awoke to clear skies. Spirits were high as we anticipated our hike for the day. The shuttle driver dropped us off right where we left the trail and we started walking. The 6 of us have formed a solid group and now everyone has trail names thanks to a quick stop at a sports bar last night. In addition to Billy Goat, Blazer and myself, we now have Hula (formerly Hannah) along with Made It and Car Bomb (formerly the two guys from New Hampshire.) We practically had the bar to ourselves, but I guess that is what you should expect at 6:30PM in a town like Franklin, NC. The guys drank while Hannah played with a hula hoop in the corner. The two New Hampshire guys drank Irish Car Bomb after Irish Car Bomb and kept saying how happy they were that they made it this far. After a few drinks, trail names were easy to disperse! We only hiked 8 miles today, so we got to the shelter around 5:00PM. Siler Bald Shelter is a really cool campsite and we found a small field just south of the campsite where we set up our tent city. After dinner, we hiked an additional half mile to the bald to watch the sunset. A bald is  the top of a mountain where trees can’t or haven’t grown, giving you a 360° view. Luckily, the skies were clear, so the views were incredible. It took us two weeks and over 100 miles, but we finally witnessed a spectacular sunset.

Group picture at Siler Bald. From Left to Right: Blazer, Hula, Poboy, Made It, Car Bomb, Billy Goat

Group picture at Siler Bald. From Left to Right: Blazer, Hula, Poboy, Made It, Car Bomb, Billy Goat

Siler Bald right before sunset.

Siler Bald right before sunset.

Beautiful Sunset

Beautiful Sunset

Siler Bald Sky at Sunset

Siler Bald Sky at Sunset

Siler Bald Sunset through the trees

Siler Bald Sunset through the trees


Day 16, 3/16/15

Start: Siler Bald Shelter
Finish: Cold Spring Shelter
Miles Hiked: 11.6
Miles To Go: 2063.6
Overall Miles Hiked: 125.6

Right next to the field where we camped was a small stream where we decided to cook breakfast. As I was preparing to cook my beef flavored ramen noodles (yes, ramen for breakfast!) I filled my stove with enough fuel to bring 300mL of water to a boil. Instead of lighting my stove on the ground, I lit it in my hand. I know, dumb. The stove got hot much faster than I anticipated and in an early morning panic, I dropped it. Unfortunatley, I dropped it in my food bag. As the flares spread, I sprung into action and half tossed/half kicked the bag into the stream extinguishing the fire. My bag had melted into the scorched food leaving me with only half of my intended rations.  As I cursed myself, everyone else was choking on their food in laughter. Glad I could make them all laugh! The worst part of this was my food bag contained a king size Twix bar to eat tonight, but the wrapping had melted, making it inedible. In another month or so, I would probably eat it anyway.

Our crew just moments before I lit my food on fire

Our crew just moments before I lit my food on fire

It was tough hiking all day as we got closer to the Smokies. Our elevation is much higher and the ups and downs are much larger than they were in GA. We had a really awesome moment together while having our lunch atop Wayah Bald. On the top of the bald is a stone tower that is now a tourist attraction. From the bald, we could see Siler Bald, Albert Mountain and Standing Indian Mountain. As the crow flies, Siler Bald was only 3 miles away, while the other two mountains were 10 miles away. By A.T. miles, Siler Bald was 7 miles away, Albert Mountain (and the fire tower we climbed a few days ago) was 21 miles away and Standing Indian Mountain was 33 miles away. It was an awesome experience being able to see exactly how far we have come and to see the mountains and unnamed hills we have crossed over the last week. We walked the remaining 4 miles and setup our tents on some fairly level ground, but trying to avoid the shelters and their mice mean you will have to endure a few nasty campsites.


Day 17, 3/17/15

Start: Cold Spring Shelter
Finish: Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC)
Miles Hiked: 11.7
Miles To Go: 2051.9
Overall Miles Hiked: 137.3

With low food rations I wanted to push myself to the Nantahala Outdoor Center (better known as the NOC) which is a sprawling outdoor center that sits at the bottom of a 3,000 ft. descent. So far, my biggest descent was only 1,000 ft., so I knew my knees would be in for a test. I packed up early and left my hiking clan behind as they were not planning on making it all the way to the NOC today. About half way into my hike, I ran into Dave and Robin, a friendly couple from Hiawassee who I had met about a week ago. We talked about hiking and sunsets and before long, I was back on my way to the NOC. With about 2 miles left in my hike, I hit a wall. My knees and feet were on fire with every step. (I feel like I should note that unlike my food bag, I did not light my body on fire!) All I wanted to do was set up camp and call it a day. I was out of food with the exception of a lonely package of ramen and I’ll be damned if I eat ramen for the umpteenth meal in a row! The NOC or bust! Well, I made it – sweaty, stinky and crippled, but I made it! My first stop was the registration house, but I had to find it first. From across the parking lot, I yelled at another hiker I recognized, “Where do I get my room?” “Follow me!” he shouted back. After a quarter mile of hiking back up a mountain, I asked if he knew where we were going. Sadly, he misheard me and I was back on the A.T. It took me another 30 minutes to limp back down and find the registration house. Sigh. After paying for my bunk, I was informed that the hostel at the NOC was under renovation which meant the bathhouse was closed, but they had set aside a cabin (downhill and 1,000 yards away) for us to use to take a shower. Towels were in a separate building far, far away that I had no intention of walking to… my plan was to drip dry. I painfully made it to the cabin so I could shower and opened the bathroom door. To my surprise, it was clean, but had no shampoo or soap. Honestly, at this point it did not matter. On the floor was a fairly clean bath mat, which I decided instantly would serve as my towel. Gross, I know, but hey, I’m just a hiker!

 

After showering, I made it to the restaurant overlooking the Nantahala River. To my surprise, I was waved over to a nearby table from Dave and Robin. They are retirees and avid hikers and even maintain several miles of the A.T. I really enjoyed talking to them and was very surprised when they picked up the tab for my burger! They have helped several hikers over the years and I hope to meet them again. The NOC restaurant is situated perfectly as diners watch rafters negotiate the rapids of the river below. I decided to stay until closing and enjoy the view.

Me, Dave and Robin having lunch at the NOC restaurant

Me, Dave and Robin having lunch at the NOC restaurant

After my burger, why not ice cream and a brownie to wash it down!?!

After my burger, why not ice cream and a brownie to wash it down!?!


4 thoughts on “Days 15 – 17 (3/15/15 – 3/17/15)

  1. Nick, Mike soignet here. Your Dad informed of of your adventure and we are thrilled to follow you through your torture and pain. Just kidding!. Anyway, We, ( People at the Fed) have enjoyed your blog and look forward to your posts. It is awesome what you are doing big guy, so keep on trucking and keep them pictures coming. It is a stress relief reading your posts and looking at your pictures. I am a camper and love the outdoors myself. Except when it’s raining ,of course! Take care Nick!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I tried to post this to your message board a week ago but I don’t think it showed up. So, if you got the post this one adds a bit more data regarding Sasquatch and the AT. As I have mentioned, I am a huge Sasquatch enthusiast. What I have done is to collect data regarding Sasquatch sightings all the way along the AT. I exclude data from Georgia since at this point you have left Georgia in your dust.
    Methodology
    Before I get into the thick of the data, let me make a few comments about the methodology I employed in data collection and analysis. First of all, Is this a scientific study? Absolutely Not! But, its better than nothing.

    I began by collecting data identifying the states and counties you will walk through on your adventure. Then I ran an extensive Sasquatch sightings database on a county by county search and totaled the number of Sasquatch sightings in each county for the last five years. From your current location to the end of the AT in Maine you will traverse or at least enter approximately 75 counties. Of those 75 counties 55 of them have reports of at least one sighting in the past five years. The average number of sightings for the 55 counties with sightings is a mean of 2.4 sightings per county. So the rest of this report will only deal with counties with more than double the mean number of sightings (5 or more). And, finally I identify trail shelters in those counties to give you a better idea about location. I doubt that the AT is marked to identify what county you’re in.

    A Word About Sightings
    I spend my summers here in Florida sailing the bays and coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. In the twelve years that I have been doing so, I have only seen maybe 8 – 10 sharks. But I can absodamlutely guarantee you that there are more than 8-10 sharks out there. I think th e same is true of Sasquatch albeit to a much lesser degree. In order for a sighting to be recorded on a database, three things have to happen 1) There has to be a Sasquatch. 2) There has to be a human observer and 3) The observer must take the time and effort to report the sighting to a database. Statistically, we can be reasonably sure that only about 10% (probably less than that) of sightings get reported to a database. Statisticians refer to this phenomenon as observer effect. Just like the sharks in the Gulf of Mexico, the woods of North America have a helluva lot more Sasquatches than people might think.

    The Nitty Gritty
    Finally these are the counties, with shelter names included, with the greatest number of sightings.
    Sevier County Tennessee, 6 sightings, Derrick Knob Shelter.
    Rocckingham County Va. 6 sightings High Top Hut Shelter.
    Warren County Va. 5 sightings, Jim & Molley Denton Shelter
    Berks County Pennsylvania, 5 sightings, William Penn Shelter and 501 Shelter.
    Warren County New Jersey, 5 sightings a very small county with no shelters listed.
    The Big One – Sussex County New Jersey, 11 sightings. Several shelters listed. From Brink Road Shelter to Pochuck Mountain Shelter.
    Litchfield County Connecticut, 5 sightings, Mt. Algo Lean-to Shelter.
    Berkshire County Massachusetts, 5 sightings Several shelters listed from Tom Leanor Shelter to Bascom Lodge Shelter.

    A Final Word
    Will you get to see a Squatch? I don’t know but, this much is for sure, you’ll have better chance of seeing one than I will while sailing in the Gulf!!!!!!
    Happy Hiking,
    Your Uncle

    Liked by 1 person

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