Sunday, October 18, 2015


Day 2:  Wesser Bald Shelter, NC to the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC), NC - 5.9 miles

Dawn broke brightly over our campsite on the morning of Day 2 on the A.T.

We spent quite a bit of time sharing our morning cup of coffee with section hiker, Scott, and long distance hiker, Pete.  We even gave both guys some of our extra coffee sticks for the road!  There's a lot of things I'm willing to travel without.  Coffee, my friends, is not one of them...even though those instant Folgers sticks we resort to don't come close to tasting like a cup of coffee at home.  It hits the spot each night in camp and definitely gets us started in the mornings!

We'd actually began our descent down into Nantahala Gorge the day before but we now had just shy of 6 miles of it ahead of us.  My knees and feet are still grumbling a bit over all the extreme downhill miles we put in....most over slick tree roots and bolder fields.  I can honestly say I've never left the trail with shin splints but this time it was just an added plus to the difficulty the terrain handed out.

Roughly halfway through our day we came up on what's known as 'The Jump Off."  Simply put, it's a fairly small rock ledge that offers some amazing views... you sit, contemplating just how on earth you're going to make it down the rocks that lie before you...

This picture truly doesn't do this tiny section of the trail any justice.  Debbie searched for footholds but finally looked at me and said, " Guess we'll just have to sit down and slide."  Now...I'll take a moment here to say that no one who knows me will be willing to sing my praises when it comes to traversing rocks...large rocks...large, slick, steep rock.  I would imagine if asked, anyone who hikes with me would say it's the most annoying part of hiking with me.  In my defense, I carry around a pretty mean case of vertigo that loves to toy with my balance.  I also have some slight muscle injuries that cause me to doubt my ability to handle such drastic terrain.  I have to step down with my left foot which often leaves me all twisted and struggling to take my next step.  In short...I have a deep-seated fear of falling.  A fear that sometimes brings my forward progress to a quick halt as I survey the situation and try to make my safe descent.  This time, I was happy to take a seat and skid down the rock till my feet touched solid ground.  No harm done...other than to add dirt to the back of my shorts.

At the bottom of the Jump Off, looking up

So down and down and down we went.  At one point, during another rock descent, my feet went out from under me and down I went.  Luckily, I ended up wedged between the rocks and suffered on a fairly good size bruise on my right hip.  Under the circumstances, I was happy with that. I was able to roll myself around till I was facing the rocks and stand myself up.  Yeah...graceful...I can't all be as graceful as I was at that moment.  Ha! It didn't seem like we'd gone very far when I went to take a step and there was legs were done...I went down on one knee, much like a football player does on the field when someone's injured.  At that point, I felt the sting of hot tears as I tossed my trekking poles towards my sister and said, "Now how am I suppose to get up?"  Of course, all I had to do was drop my pack, stand up, re-load and carry on but in that moment, I was exhausted from the constant downhill we'd be traversing all day.  Thankfully, my sister was able to come back and help me up.  Just a short time later we reached the camping spot associated with the Rufus Morgan Shelter, where we stopped for a break....nine-tenths of a mile from the NOC, our destination for the evening.  After a short rest, we suited up and continued on...

Reaching the NOC was a very happy moment for me!

Actually, the Nantahala Outdoor Center was much smaller than I'd envisioned, with a small general store, an outfitter, two restaurants, and a large building where all the Wilderness Medicine courses are taught are pretty much all there is to it.  Somewhere I believe there is a lodge of some type and then there's the base camp where hikers usually stay.  We had reserved a 2 person "cabin" which consisted of one set of over-sized bunk beds and a bench.  The mattress resembled a queen size crib mattress and we were required to use our sleeping bags as our linens (which we knew ahead of time).  There's a men's and women's bathroom complete with hot showers...each stall has a dispenser of hair/body soap and you can get a towel at the general store when you check in. There's also a community base camp kitchen for all to use.  Let me put this out there now:  the (written) rule is that is you're going to put anything in the fridge, put your name and the date on it otherwise it is to be considered fair game for anyone who comes in.  Please...please follow this rule so that unpleasant situations can be avoided.  We scoped the kitchen out upon our arrival and found a handsome box of sausage biscuits in the freezer without a name/date on them.  So...we decided that would be our breakfast the next morning.  Well...had the owner of this lovely box of biscuits followed the POSTED rules, his box would have remained in tact.  After a minor hissy-fit by some girl that was with him we guess, my sister gave the young man a 20.00 bill to replace the 2 biscuits we'd taken from his box, unintentionally tapping into his "limited resources" and "meals for 4 weeks."  Dude...put your name on your stuff and no one will bother it!  Can't help but wonder if that wilderness medicine instructor who came in and raided the boxes of poptarts was tapping into those "limited resources" as well.

View of the river as seen from the Riverside Restaurant

After finally finding our cabin and dropping our packs, we immediately headed for the restaurant.  Granted, we'd only been out 2 days but after 6 miles of descent, we were STARVING!!!

A giant cheeseburger and chili-cheese fries hit the spot!
We were seated on the back porch, away from the other patrons, which suited us just fine!  The staff was very friendly and soon our bellies were full!  After a satisfying dinner, we went back up to our cabin, grabbed clean clothes and hit the showers!  Boy, did that hot water feel amazing!!!  All squeaky clean, we decided we were going to do our own pack shakedown, cutting our food, snacks and other stuff down to the bare minimum we figured we'd need over the next 4 days.  I even left a couple pairs of rain pants on the counter in the kitchen for someone else who might need them....fuel cans, snacks and meals found their way into the box.  Satisfied that we'd gotten our pack weight down, we returned to our cabin.  We attempted to sit out on the community porch but there were tons of tiny mosquitoes lying in wait for us under the leaves that covered the floor.  Exhausted, we went on to bed slightly before dark. thing I've found is that when out on the trail, we typically climb into bed as the sun goes down and come out of our tent as soon as it's daylight enough to see our surroundings.  The biological clock takes over.  It's great!  No alarm clock needed....although we did set one that night because we wanted to be up and on the trail by 8am to begin our climb out of Nantahala Gorge....and WHAT a climb it was!!!

We hit the trail early the next morning, with the clouds hanging low.  Our journey continued!!!

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