Thursday, October 15, 2015


The weather forecast didn't look good as we made the drive from Tampa to Hiawassee.  A hurricane out in the Atlantic coupled with a high pressure system moving east across the US threatened to put a quick end to out second attempt to complete our section hike taking us from Burningtown Gap, NC to Fontana Dam, NC.  As we put the road miles behind us, an email from our shuttle service passing on flood watches and fearing for their own property nestled between the mountains and a picturesque creek forced us to make a complete change of plans while on the road.  We finally secured a place to stay for those two extra nights and made our way into Dahlonega where we were going to wait out the rain, hoping the weather would improve.  As Saturday passed, it appeared that we would, in fact, be able to hit the trail with only a one day delay, using a different shuttle service...a man named Ron Brown who said that the only thing that would stop him from getting us to Burningtown Gap would be a blow-down that had the forest service road which case he would let us out and we would have to hike up the remainder of the road.

 As luck would have it, the only blow-downs that blocked our path were across the road winding up Blood of which Mr. Brown navigated his SUV under and the second tree he and some fellow travelers moved off the road.  We were on our way at last!


We set off on our grand adventure roughly at 11am with 7 miles to go for the day.  Now... miles probably doesn't sound like much, but it doesn't take the mountain long to show you who is boss out there. 

We hiked in the clouds, soaking our hair and clothing within maybe 30 minutes of our gap departure.  Like Debbie said:  this is when living in Florida is actually a benefit because we're already use to breathing water every day thanks to the high humidity.  I have to say that's about as far as any benefit living in Florida takes us.  Going from flat to climbing mountains is about as physically challenging as it gets!

The day passed quickly and we soon arrived at our lunch stop for the day:  Cold Springs Shelter. 

Cold Springs Shelter

The Cold Springs Shelter sits right on the A.T.  You run right into it.  Perhaps the best feature of this shelter area is the fact that the water source runs directly in front of it.

White pipe feeds water source

That is about the only good thing I can honestly say about this shelter area.  As we approached it, we could see the rats sunning behind the structure itself and as we sat inside, preparing our lunch, the smell of rat urine permeated the area.  I would NOT want to have to spend the night there!  The campsites were a few feet north of the shelter itself and we didn't take the time to check them out.  We still had miles to go before we hit our stopping point for the night.

The trail mimicked a steam in most places that first day thanks to all the rain we'd had the few days prior to our start date but we trekked on.  We were thrilled to reach Copper Ridge Bald and our first vantage point for some amazing views!

We didn't take this side trail but heard it provided great views!

We made our way down into Tellico Gap which served as a reminder that most times going downhill is much more difficult than going up!  Don't get me wrong...making the climb out of almost any gap is difficult at best but trekking downhill for an extended period of time is far worse!  As Debbie said, "I'm tired of taking little steps!"

The sun finally found us as we climbed out of the gap and up towards Wesser Bald!  After hiking in the clouds all day, seeing the sun really did lift our spirits a bit. 

Some Fall colors peeking through the canopy!

We were elated to finally reach the Wesser Bald!  Perched atop the mountain is an old wooden fire tower that is a must-do!  We quickly dropped our packs and carefully climbed the steep stairs to the top of the tower where we were met with panoramic views!

Looking old and feeling tired!

We had about another mile to go to get to the Wesser Bald Shelter area, our camp for the night.  It should be noted here that about .25 miles BEFORE you reach the shelter area is a fairly large sign that simply says "WATER".  This IS the water source for the shelter.  We had to go back to get our water after we got our tent and gear set up.  It's not really that far back but yourself a favor and stop on your way in if you're able to.  You'll thank yourself later.  Trust me on this one!

We shared our camp that night with a man named Scott, who told us he was out on the A.T. to lose weight.  Scott was an okay guy but some of the things he said did cross the line a bit.  Needless to say, we were glad to put some distance between us the next day.  A very nice young man named Pete came in after we had gone to bed.  Pete had been walking for months.  Once he reached Springer Mountain, all he had left was about 800 miles north of Connecticut to complete his thru hike.  All in all, we had a nice first evening out on the trail!

Sporting the latest in AT fashions!

I've got to say that any time we go out, the first night/morning is the hardest for us.  Everything in the woods sounds like a bear at night.  Everything.  And re-packing everything on that first morning seems to take forever and never does it all fit back in like you had it...but we arose anxious to head for the Nantahala Outdoor Center where we'd spend our second night, eat real food and get a shower!  With Day 1 behind us, we were excited to be one day closer to our destination, Fontana Dam, NC!

Morning breaks over Wesser Bald Shelter.

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