North Carolina welcomed me with bright sunshine and smooth trails. Well, for the first few minutes at least. As I walked past the famous “gnarled tree” (it didn’t look much different from any other gnarled tree aside from the white blaze on it) I began the steepest climb I had faced yet. It was an unexpected effort, but really wasn’t that difficult. I figured that after I made it up to the ridge it would be a nice easy slide into camp. Unfortunately I was wrong and I had a second, even steeper climb up to the shelter. Although I was camped at 4700 feet, the steepness of the terrain was really nothing compared to Maine. Having two unexpected climbs at the end of a 16+ mile day makes one grateful to be in camp. It didn’t help that during the second climb I got a bloody nose. I was doing the hiker trademarked “air hanky” when I realized my nose was dripping. Fortunately, my real hanky was withing reach and I was able to sop it up no problem.
The shelter was full so I tented out as usual, even with the threat of rain. The site lacked bear cables to hang my food from, and considering these signs were posted all around the area, I hung my food with my own rope for the first time, and I must say that it came out quite well.
I decided that the next day I would hike sixteen more miles, so that I would only be a half day’s walk out of Franklin, NC where I am staying now. I awoke at 6:30 to the wonderful sound of rain on my tent. I packed up under the cover of the shelter, and was quite pleased that all of my gear except for the tent was dry. It sure didn’t stay that way.
Walking sixteen miles in the rain, even in full rain gear with a pack cover, guarantees a thorough soaking. By lunch time I was soaked through, so I stopped at Carter Gap Shelter to eat and get warm. Another group of hikers had the same idea, and one of them had a thermometer. It was thirty-eight degrees. I hadn’t noticed the cold because I was moving, but stopping brought on the cold, so I made a quick lunch and headed back out, up over Albert Mountain, a 5200 footer.
I arrived at long branch shelter around four, and there was plenty of room. All of my gear was wet, or at least moist, except for my down jacket and sleeping bag, which I had put in a plastic bag. Shaun was there and we both hung all of our stuff up to dry, but to no avail, as it was all still wet this morning.
Today I made the quick seven miles into Winding Stair Gap and took the free 11 am shuttle into the wonderful town of Franklin, NC. I’m staying at Haven’s Budget Inn, owned and operated by Ron Haven who does free shuttles (whether you stay or not) and gives hikers a discounted price. I got into my room and immediately began airing out all of my gear. I dried my tent with a towel, then set it up to air out.
The rest of my wet stuff got hung up in the bathroom. I cranked up the electric heater, and turned on the exhaust fan to let out the moisture. It is nice and steamy in there as we speak.
Starting with dry gear tommorow, it looks like I’ll have clear skies until I hit the smokies. To prevent future soakings, I have acquired a few trash bags to put my gear in inside my pack. I didn’t mind walking in the rain all that much, but camping in the rain can really be an unpleasant experience.
“The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain”. -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow