June 12th: Tuesday
8:30 pm I off to Nantahala Outdoor Center in North Carolina on my second leg of my Appalachian trail journey. After
driving US 28 from just south of Knoxville, TN I’m a little dizzy. 28 is known as "The Tail of The Dragon". It is a
favorite of motorcyclist on the weekends. After midnight, in the middle of the week, it is pretty much deserted. After miles
and miles of the "Tail" I pull into the Outdoor Center at 2:00 am. I have nowhere to stay so I pull out my sleeping bag and
curl up into the reclined passenger seat of my car.
June, 13th Wednesday: AT miles hiked 11.6
I’m up at 7:00. I quickly make my way to the restaurant for an egg, bacon and cheese breakfast sandwich. My ride
is there promptly at 8:00am to take me to Dick’s Creek Gap for today’s hike. The first climb on the first day
back is always a little tough. I ran into several curious day hikers from Atlanta. All were very friendly. It did not seem
to be as hot as last week was. I reached the North Carolina state line and took a couple of pictures. Georgia had been tough
on me but fair. It’s tough on everyone. Soon after entering North Carolina there is a steep 1000ft climb up Sharp Top
and Courthouse Bald. On my way up I ran into Ron Haven. Ron owns the Budget Inn in Franklin, NC. It is a popular hiker stay-over.
He gave me his card and promised a discount when I reached Winding Stairs. The trail is 9-10 miles away from the hotel but
Ron provides free shuttle to and from the trail. It’s about 6pm when I roll into the shelter. Staying here tonight is
Nevena, a UGA graduate student, and her spunky 8 month old dog named June. Nevena sets up her tent inside the shelter and
June climbs into the bag with her. I appreciate the fact there is a dog here because I had heard of Bear activity at this
shelter the day before from a South Bound hiker who was nearing the end of his journey.
June, 14th Thursday: AT miles hiked 19.3
To say this day was epic is to be cliche’. It started as any other day would. I did leave the shelter at 7:00am and
was headed to the Carter Gap Shelter about 12 miles down the trail. When I got to the shelter it was over filled with 8 people
there. One of the hikers there was stranded with a leg injury. Another hiker had made arrangements to help get him out. It
started to rain and Nevena and June just made it in. The rain ended after a brief period and I had made the decision to press
on another 7 to Big Spring Shelter. Nevena decided to do the same. She was hoping to catch up to a couple friends she had
made...Kurt and his daughter Claire. We left the shelter donning our rain gear in the event it rained. It did. Ten minutes
after we left the skies opened up. Thunder, lightning...and Then the Hail Came. Inside I was laughing because I have read
"Then the Hail Came" It is an often hilarious on-line Book/Journal written by George Steffanos about his AT Thru hike in 1983.
I now knew how George felt. Like George, I was wondering what the hell I was doing out here. This went on for over an hour.
The rain continued for another hour after that. Our boots were soaked inside and out. It did let up right before we started
our climb up Albert Mountain. That one is 2/3 of a mile of down on all fours climbing. Once on top there was a weather tower.
A quick climb up that tower provided an awesome 360 degree unobstructed view for miles. As we made our way onto the shelter
we let out a cheer. Mine was more of a Hee Hah. As luck would have it Kurt and Claire were there. Claire was excited to see
Nevena and vice-versa. I had met these two on my first day when I stopped for lunch at Hawk Mountain Shelter.
Kurt had thru-Hiked in 2003. He had hitch hiked with "Lion King" who did a documentary film that year. We looked down at
the ground and noticed there were still piles of ice on the ground from the hail. We did our best to hang up our clothes and
to get into something dry.
Lipton Noodles never tasted so good. Hiking 19.3 in a storm proved to us that we could handle this hike. It also shortened
our day tomorrow to 9.1 miles into Franklin. We would need the town stay to get dried out. The promise of a real bed and an
All You Can Eat Buffet was just what all of us needed.
Claire kept talking all night about getting to a Hardees for one of their Side-O-Beef Burgers. Life is good.
June, 15th Friday: AT miles hiked 9.1
We all left the shelter around 7:00 am. We made really good time and stopped about every 3 miles for a turbo break. The
first stop was at the 100 mile mark. One down...twenty to go. OK it all of a sudden didn’t seem too impressive. Nevena
let June off her leash. Though we walked 9.1 we estimated June walked at least 50 miles that day. She would run to the front...to
the back...to the front again. This went on the whole way to Winding Stair Gap. This was to be June’s last day on the
trail. She was losing too much weight. Nevena had arranged for a friend to pick the dog up there. Claire did not complain
about her hike at all. She had cheeseburger tunnel vision. After a ridge top phone call, Ron Haven met us at the trail head.
His motel, The Budget Inn, is a modest and clean hotel. My agenda for the rest of the day was a shower, laundry, snack, grocery
stop, nap and a rendevous with my new friends and the All You Can Eat Buffet place located by the motel.
My friends were taking a zero day on Saturday so we made our Good-byes that evening. After that it was a little TV and
a good night’s sleep in air-conditioning.
June 16th, Saturday: AT miles hiked 15.8
Up early and Ron gave another hiker Buckeye and myself a ride to the trail. Buckeye was being let off north of where I
am. He will hike southbound so we will run into each other today. I was surprised to see a SOBO hiker walking barefoot. His
trail name was "TYVEK". Every bit of his gear was made out of Tyvek building wrap. He was walking to bring attention to the
psychological needs of returning soldiers. He has a website: http://thelongwalkhome.org
I admired his passion for what he was doing. As I wheeled into Cold Spring Shelter I met Chris and Dave from Toledo. They
hike about 5 days a year on the trail and have been friends for some time. They advised me that a group of troubled youth
and their counselors had cleared the shelter so they could have it. A couple of them would venture by to gain attention. I
laughed because Kurt had told me a day ago that these type of hikers are known as "Hoods in The Woods". I was tired and my
feet were sore and I was looking forward to going home tomorrow.
June 17th, Sunday: AT miles hiked 11.5
I met several hikers today hiking SOBO from the Nantahala Outdoor Center and back on the weekend. Two were sisters from
Florida one of whom used to live in Kentucky. The climb down to the center was long and steep. I couldn’t help but feel
sorry for those climbing up until one of them said..."Wait till you have to climb out the other side from Nantahala". I later
found out he was right. It was exciting to hike into the hub-bub and activity of the NOC. Rafters were coming down the river
and people were everywhere.
They have .25 cents per minute coin operated showers there. The changer was out of change. Let’s say I took the best
shower 50 cents can offer. I bought my dad a hand crafted hiking pole at the center for Father’s Day and headed home.
On the way home I called him and thanked him for instilling in me a love of the outdoors. It would have been great if we could
have done this together when we were both younger.