Days 17-19 Nantahala Outdoor Center to Fontana Dam Shelter -Mile 165.8 since Springer Mountain
I woke up the following morning in my bunk room, which I was sharing with somebody who had obviously got in later than me, as I hadn’t heard him come in. When I noticed that he was stirring, I ventured a neighborly, “Morning” to introduce myself. He grunted morning straight back to me, so we chatted a little before he turned round. I’d just asked his trail name and, as he moved round in the bunk, he muttered “Blackbeard.”
Never has a trail name been more appropriate. What greeted me was a perfectly black, bushy beard that made the wearer look as if he’d just eaten a black bear and was just stuffing the rear end into his face. I must have looked a little startled, but he just smiled and I told him his name worked.
The rain that had been promised was teasing us all, as there was a seven mile hike ahead, with six of those miles taking us from 1,750ft to over 4,200ft. As the morning progressed, quite a few of my fellow hikers were giving the day up and planning on a zero day, but I received a food package from Diane and thought that the sky looked OK, so I thought I’d chance it.
Typically, when I was only about 10 minutes into the hike and several hundred feet up the mountain, the heavens opened and I had to put on all my waterproof gear and my pack cover. So much for my weather forecasting skills!
There was nothing more I could do than to press forward, so I stuck at it. Unfortunately, hiking involves regulation of the body temperature, with removing and adding hats, gloves, jackets and suchlike, though, for me, the toughest thing to do in this regard is when it rains on an uphill slog.
Uphill always makes me sweat, however cold it is outside. With the rain falling and my waterproof jacket keeping the rain out I find that my sweat continues and I get wetter and ultimately colder on the inside. When I arrived at Sassafras Gap Shelter that night, I was cold and wet, though I relaxed a little too early and took my second tumble of the trip on the easy walk down into the shelter.
As always, my hiking speed never gIves me the option of a spot in the shelter, so I shuffled off to find the flattest spot left and quickly set up my tent. I had immediately stripped off my soggy jacket and shirt, both soaking but from opposite directions. Thus dressed in warmer and dry clothes, I was able to get the tent ready.
A word about the tent.
When I bought it, I hadn’t realized that I’d be sharing it with my pack. Now, while this simply demonstrates my lack of experience (where, after all, did I think the pack would be spending the night?), it nevertheless gives me a huge problem every night, as I have what amounts to a fight every night simply to put everything in its place. I can only imagine what it must look like from the outside as I struggle to get out of clothes and into my sleeping bag, all the while shoving things back onto the pack as they topple onto me. Nightmare!,