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Day 11 15.2 Miles
Had a cold awakening at Sassafras Gap Shelter this morning but was able to stay warm before hitting the trail fairly early. Climbed up to the top Cheaoh Bald first thing and the views were breathtaking. Overall the whole day was clear and temperatures in the mid 50s. The trail from Cheaoh to Cable Gap Shelter was pretty flat with a few uphills here and there.
Finally ran into the Quirins who I met up at LeConte and are thru hiking the trail with their baby Ellen. This is the first time in AT history that a baby has attempted to hike the entire trail. They started from Roanoke and will be hiking south to Springer then flip flop back up to Maine then hike back south. You should look them up on FB and follow their story.
Caught back up with Jukebox at Brown Fork Shelter and we ate lunch together and talked about all the ways you can make eggs. I know exciting topics here on the AT. Tom jolted ahead and is probably in Fontana by now. As for me I decided to conserve some energy and take it easy before the upcoming Smokies in a couple days. Tomorrow I will be just hiking into Fontana about 7 miles and taking a nero day, which is an early zero day to resupply foodstuffs before the upcoming Smokies.
Closer to nightfall I met Gonzo and Loon who were hiking together from the NOC today a long 22 mile day for them. Hopefully will get to know them better in the next couple of days in Fontana and the Smokies if they don’t pull to far ahead. My philosophy right now is to slow down a bit and to also listen to my feet. They usually give the best advice on how far I can go in a day.
Day 10 16.3 Miles
Today was a pretty tough day. Started breaking camp down in a torrential downpour, where everything pretty much got wet. Hiked down to the NOC in a thunderstorm that was blowing wind at least 10-15 mph all kinds of directions. Plus I was up on a ridgeline with very little cover with previous seasons fire damage. I was a bit scared for the first time, because one slip could have cost me big time. I kept trudging along and after about 11 miles I finally made it down to the NOC took a break under some canopy and tried to dry off as best as I could. Plugged in my phone charger to an outside outlet and ate a few snacks. Caught back up with Jukebox, he was sick a couple days ago and I was surprised I caught back up with him. Good to hear from him, he hiked the PCT a few years ago. While at the NOC I applied for a Smokies thru hiker permit ($20) while inside the outfitters and also bought a couple new Smartwater bottles to make up for the beaten one I’ve been using. Also, had a little bit of time to eat at the local restaurant where I ordered a Milepost 137 chili burger with fries. Mmmm, it was good to refuel with real food besides just snacks. Some guy that I met, didn’t catch his name, turned around and randomly called me Redbeard. This might be my new trailname!?? What do you think? There’s been plenty of Redbeards in the past.
The climb out of the NOC up to the Sassafras Gap Shelter was quite arduous to say the least especially mid afternoon. I was moving slow and my feet were hurting. I finally made it to the shelter around 5 or so and was quite relieved. What a day! I’m tired and am hoping to get some sleep in the shelter tonight. First time back in a shelter since Stover Creek.
Day 9 17.1 Miles
Broke down camp in the rain this morning, didn’t even take the time to make a pot of oatmeal, instead a cliff bar sufficed. Rain cleared finally around the top of Silers Bald and I was able to dry some of my socks out hanging from my pack. I was dragging a bit today, because of the heavy pack from resupply but I tried to push on with determination. Pretty sure today was the heaviest my pack has been. Around mile 10 or 12 the bottoms of my feet start to hurt. Caught back up with Tom at Wayah Bald rock tower for lunch and thought this place looked familiar. Back when I was a freshman in college I took a fall break outdoor rec trip to this area and covered about 30 miles or so down to the NOC. Deja vu!
Was hoping to stay at Licklog Gap tonight, but Tom insisted on pushing on several more miles down the trail. I grudgingly agreed. Had to crank up the tunes to get through the rest of the day. Sorry Luke no Phish lol. Views ontop of Copper Ridge Bald were beautiful, foreshadowing of what’s to come in the Smokies. I should be close to Newfound Gap by this Friday or Saturday, details to come later. Anyone is welcome to come visit. Got a couple pounds lighter pack and will hopefully will stop for a short bit at the Nantahala Outdoor Center for some lunch or ice cream tomorrow then keep moving on up the trail. They are calling for high winds tonight so I hope I don’t blow away on this mountain. Got a chance to talk to my sweet girlfriend who is doing awesome things in Knoxville which boosted the morale a whole lot and I found out she may be visiting me in the Smokies in the next couple of days. Life is good!