Farewell Franklin and friends, hello balds and snow!

March 7, 2018

Destination: Lick Log Gap Today's Miles: 12.30

Start Location: Winding Stair Gap (Franklin) Trip Miles: 121.50

Another view from Wayah Bald
In the morning I woke up at 6:45 to falling snow. Awesome!

Even, better, I woke up to it in a nice, warm, and amazingly comfortable guest bed. Yay! I journaled a bit to try and catch up, and then took another shower. Another shower!! It felt heavenly of course. Chris went above and beyond (even more than she had already) and made chili eggs with meat and we ate those with fresh bread and jam. I had three huge pieces of bread. We sat and chatted for a while and looked at the beautiful view outside their home. Then it was time to pack up and head back to the trail. I joked with Chris that I wanted to take their guest bed on the trail with me. It was so comfortable that I slept like a log and barely moved! Two other pieces of trail magic that Chris bestowed upon me: a few safety pins and a sewing needle. She read that I had forgotten a needle. Also, the safety pins were a great idea. Future thru hikers, tuck two of those in your kit. As I lose weight I can use those to adjust clothing. My rain pants already need cinching in. 

We took a few photos and it was time to go. Chris dropped me off back at Winding Stair Gap and said goodbye for now, wishing me the best and providing some moral support, as the trail was now blanketed in snow. I set off hiking.

The day started with a climb up to Siler Bald. It was quite cold, but soon I was hiking in just my base layer. I like to hike with my rain jacket on until I reach a good solid warmth. Then, before I start sweating, I take it off, but leave my buff on under my hat and my gloves on. It’s a little chilly on the north faces of the mountains, but chilly is ok. What I don’t want to do is sweat, as that gets cold really fast and it’s harder to warm up. So far this is serving me well. The snow on the ground was light until I hit the north side of Siler Bald. After that the trail was slippery with compacted snow. 

I passed a few hikers, including many day hikers going south. Everyone looked so cold! I soon came upon a young woman hiking with her dog. Her dog was huge! I said hello and she introduced them by trail names. She was Faith Walker and the dog was Dirt Bear. He was a beautiful dog; she said the breed was Akita. The dog’s regular name was Charlie, and as we chatted about how far away the shelter was, Dirt Bear proceeded to eat a small sapling. That’s right - he ate it. A small shrub. Gone. If ever there was a good dog for the trail, he was it. His paws were massive and he was as tall as the top of my hips with a thick coat of fur. I was jealous of the fur, and quickly touched my 16year old white patchy stubble. Sigh.... there is a photo of these hikers in my photo gallery. 

I pushed on to reach the summit of Wayah Bald. They are almost done building a new fire tower there. I confirmed with Chris that the fires that ravaged the Southern Nantahala forest were two years ago, not last year. Even the tower at Wayah burned down! The views from the summit at Wayah were stunning! Definitely the best views of the trip so far. If you’re into panorama shots, this was the ku de tat! Maybe when the trip is done I’ll have it tattooed on the insides of my eyelids so I can always see it. That’s a thing they can do, right?

After Wayah I started descending to eventually reach the shelter. I arrived at Wayah Bald Shelter at 4:20, and the place was jam packed. People were renting right by the trail. I decided to push just over another mile to get to Licklog Gap to tent for the night. It was lower in elevation so would likely be a few degrees warmer, and less snow. I half wondered if I would arrive to a similar crowd, but I did not! There were a handful of good spots left and about 6 other guys there. 

I proceeded with my camp setup and chores. Chris told me I should do a whole entry on camp chores. There’s a lot to do and organize! I try and get it all done before dark too, because that is when the biting cold hits. I’ll write about that another day. I started to boil water to make my dinner and tea and noticed one of the older guys at camp had built a fire. Yes!!! Now, you may think that we have fires every night on the trail, but we don’t! It’s too wet many nights, too cold, or we just don’t have the energy after hiking all day and doing camp chores to start one. This fire was the first I’d seen on the trail! I joined the guys around the fire and ate my Knorr rice side. I had the Dirty Rice and Pasta blend, as well as a tortilla and tuna pack. It was delightful! Then I ate some chocolate wafers I bought at Ingles in Franklin - absolutely godly. 

It is freezing as I type this. It is supposed to get down to 19 tonight, with a high of 32 tomorrow. I plan to get close to the Nantahala Outdoor Center tomorrow. I bought my smokies permit and Chris helped me print it off, so I’m all set there. Also, Trail Angel Chris gave me a roll of golden trail tickets (toilet paper), which was awesome because they don’t sell singles at Ingles (such poetry!). 

As I type, I can hear the tinkling sound of snow hitting the tent. It isn’t supposed to snow today or tomorrow, so I doubt we’ll get much. There is definitely some cold wet weather coming our way soon! It’s the AT after all ;-). 

It was such a great day! I must give a huge thanks to Chris and Ron for basically taking care of me for a day. I had a blast and look forward to adventures with them when this hike is done. I’m thankful that I’m warm tonight because I’m sure a lot of people around the world are not. I’m also  grateful for the continued guest book messages! Luba, you didn’t sign your name but I know which one is yours! Good lines indeed! Abbey, thank you so much for the offer in PA!! More than anything, I hope you do get out on the trail - you can do it!! If Hungry Cat can do it, you’re a shoe in! Maybe a boot in is more appropriate? Maybe I’ll see you in PA - that would be awesome! As we like to say out here, we’re “heading north, one step at a time.” Time for Hungry Cat to dream about breakfast!

Goodnight all~ Tomorrow is going to be awesome!

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