Days 18 – 20 (3/18/15 – 3/20/15)

Day 18, 3/18/15

Start: Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC)
Finish: Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC)
Miles Hiked: 0
Miles To Go: 2051.9
Overall Miles Hiked: 137.3

When I woke up I could barely walk. My knees were in a lot of pain after the hike into the NOC, so I decided to take a zero today. I had breakfast with my group and made plans to meet back up with them in three days in Fontana Village, NC, they hiked on. With an entire day and no plans, I decided to take advantage of what the NOC had to offer. For $40, I  was able to secure a spot on a whitewater rafting trip and geared up in a wetsuit. It was a great experience as I was able to get a different view of the mountain I climbed down the day before. The Nantahala River is fed by a giant flume that turns 6 miles up into the mountains leading up to Lake Nantahala. Every night, the supply of water is cut off and the river slows down to a trickle. During this time, river rafting guides will sometimes add piles of large rocks to the riverbed to alter the course and rush of the rapids. (Apparently, this practice is not exactly legal, but adds some thrills to once tame sections of the river.) After 3 hours of rafting, we arrived back at the NOC. I definitely recommend checking this place out! There is so much to do in such a beautiful setting.

Whitewater Rafting at the NOC

Whitewater Rafting at the NOC

Rafting the Nantahala

Rafting the Nantahala


Day 19, 3/19/15

Start: Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC)
Finish: Stecoah Gap
Miles Hiked: 13.4
Miles To Go: 2038.5
Overall Miles Hiked: 150.7

The climb out of the NOC was 3,200 ft. up, up and up. It kicked my ass the entire morning. I reached the first shelter of the day and had a big decision to make – set up camp and call it a day or hike on? I had hiked about 7 miles and needed to make up some ground to catch up with my group, so I pressed on. In hindsight, I probably should have stayed put. The weather was deteriorating with dense fog, stiff winds and pestering light rain. After hiking another 6 miles, I made it to a highway crossing around 5:30PM. The fog was so thick I could barely make out the A.T. marker just 50 feet away. I crossed the highway and started walking up a steep trail. I was moving slow, each foot barely clearing the toes of the other. At this rate, it would have taken me another couple of hours to reach the next shelter and I was starting to shiver from being cold and wet all day. After lunch, I had made a mistake. In an effort to get warm, I put my down jacket on underneath my rain gear, Down is extremely warm when dry, but unlike wool, when wet it is absolutely worthless. By the time I reached Stecoah Gap, my jacket had become saturated with sweat, rendering my warmest article of clothing useless…and the temperature was starting to drop. I decided to turn around and go back to the highway to hitch a ride, but the fog was so thick that the cars couldn’t see me. I grabbed my A.T. guidebook and dialed away. On the third attempt, I was able to reach Donna, who owns a nearby hostel. They were booked solid due to the weather, but she said for an additional $10 I could rent a private cabin, DONE AND DONE! I was picked up within 15 minutes and driven to my luxurious quarters for the night. I was now shivering uncontrollably and took the longest hot shower of my life. Lesson learned!

Hiking up away from the NOC

Hiking up away from the NOC


 

Day 20, 3/20/15

Start: Stecoah Gap
Finish: Fontana Dam Shelter
Miles Hiked: 15.2
Miles To Go: 2023.3
Overall Miles Hiked: 165.9

I was back on the trail early. For most of the day the weather was okay. There was light fog with no rain (hooray!) and I was enjoying hiking alone. About 6 miles from my intended shelter/stopping point for the day, I decided to stop and eat lunch. It started to drizzle just as I was finishing up. I had already done 10 miles over some pretty sloppy and slippery trail. Normally, I would have just called it a day, but I was trying to meet back up with my group ahead of schedule. I continued on, but would later come to regret this decision. Just like the day before, the weather began to deteriorate quickly. This time, I left the down jacket in my pack. With 4 miles to go, my knees began to give me a lot of trouble when going up or down stairs. The A.T. is not always a flat trail. Due to the steep inclines and declines, steps made of wood or boulders have been put in by trail maintainers. It takes more energy and places a greater strain on your body for every flight of stairs you have to take. Today, the downhill ones are the WORST! I have used hiking poles since day 1 and they have already proved to be a crucial piece of equipment for my thruhike. Without them, I know for a fact that I would have fallen countless times and placed even more strain on my sore knees. If I didn’t have my hiking poles today, I would have been forced to  literally crawl up and down the stairs, my knees were hurting that bad! I popped a couple I-vitamins and continued on, very slowly. (I-vitamins are what we call Ibuprofen.) With 2.5 miles to go, I seriously contemplated stopping to make camp. I was in pain and couldn’t see 50 ft. in front of me due to the fog and rain. I cursed myself and trail aloud, threatening to kick its ass. At this moment, I sat down and asked myself this question, “OK, dumbass… Having fun yet?” I thought to myself, “If you could leave the trail right this second and be dry and warm at home with the flip of a switch, would you do it?” I responded “no” out loud and stumbled on. The scary part was that I actually believed myself. I’ve heard that every thruhiker has similar conversations with themselves – we are all sick, crazy and addicted to pain, but we keep moving. Finally, I made it to the shelter. I was told my clan was at the hiker lodge. You could opt for a shuttle to pick you up from the shelter or you could walk an additional 3 miles to arrive by foot. No one had a cell service and the shelter was already full. I decided I would head to the lodge and thought I could easily get a ride there, I was so wrong. I walked an additional mile or so off trail before I was able to catch a ride. I met up with some of my group and hit the bed completely and utterly exhausted. Hiking 29 miles in two days in this weather will do that.

The A.T. crosses several highways like this. Also, I hate stairs!

The A.T. crosses several highways like this. Also, I hate stairs!

Cable Gap Shelter. Typical A.T. shelter.

Cable Gap Shelter. Typical A.T. shelter.

 

7 thoughts on “Days 18 – 20 (3/18/15 – 3/20/15)

  1. Dude, you have always been a wild guy! Looks like you still are!! Go get em! Don’t feel bad about the mistakes. Everybody makes them. If you learn from a mistake, that is all that matters.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reading your blog is such a hoot! I’m enjoying the experience knowing I will never attempt it! I do wish your knees would treat you better! Love, Cousin Jan

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 1 person

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