Our morning pic on the last day. Joined by a few of our trail friends.
We awoke slightly damp but ready to finish our backpacking trip. The rain was gone, it wasn’t too hot, and we were getting real food tonight! The weather was absolutely gorgeous this morning. We spent the first four miles on a rather level path up above the clouds which were filling the valleys below. We hadn’t seen a lot of wildlife on the hike but saw a few small animals this day; a centipede and a crawdad. Then we arrived at Yellow Creek Gap where we would be linking up with two of our cars so we could slackpack the last twelve miles to Fontana Dam. We stopped at the gapped. Emptied the packs of their non-essential items, had lunch and waited for about an hour. Once we got moving again we had a slight climb out of the gap and when we crested the top we got our first view of Fontana Dam off in the distance. We found out just how far as we walked four miles down the hill to the Dam. We arrived at the Marina where we took a break. Emotionally we felt done because we were “at the dam”. We still had another four miles to go. We had to walk to the end of the dam and then back. It was hard for some of the Scouts who had felt they were done to keep going but they did. We pushed through to the end of the dam and arrived at the NC/TN border then turned around and walked the two miles back to the cars.
Up above the clouds
Brown Fork Gap Shelter Privy
Jay and I
Jay enjoying a break
We got done early enough that instead of camping out for t
Yellow Creek Gap break
At the Fontana Hilton
he evening and heading home in the morning. We loaded up the cars and headed home after a quick stop at McDonalds. We rolled in about midnight and hobbled to our own cars and headed home. It was a great trip and we are looking forward to more backpacking.
The Scouts at the end of the 50 miles.
This one probably our easiest day of hiking. There weren’t too many hills and it was slightly overcast so that kept the heat down quite a bit. We had been rather fortunate this trip that we hadn’t had any rain but it had been very warm and sunny . We crossed Cheeoah Bald during the morning the first real bald that I felt we crossed. I’ve always heard a bald described as a treeless hilltop but every other bald we crossed was full of trees. We had a nice view from the top.
Last year on the hike everyone was saying it had rained almost every day. Towards the end of the day as we were headed into a valley we had a thunderstorm to our left and another to our right.
We came into the gap and there was one of our cars. We were planning on linking up with one of the cars the afternoon of day five. They’d parked in the wrong gap at the wrong road crossing. We took a nice break as we sorted out what to do.
Then we started a very steep section of the trail climbing out of the gap. We had to get over the crest of the hill and and we’d be at the shelter. The thunderstorms were getting closer so we had everyone make sure their rainwear was handy and started to climb. About halfway up the storms arrived overhead. Everyone quickly got their raingear on and out their pack covers on and we resumed the climb. I think the rain actually helped. Although it made the path slippery, the rain, thunder, and lightening gave us something else to worry about besides the hill. Before we knew it we were on the backside and headed to the shelter. The rain slacked off and allowed us to set up camp without getting our gear soaked.
The shelter was quite crowded with thru hikers. The other scout troop had arrived before us as well. One of their leaders had gotten hypothermic in the rain and was having a rough time. There is not much privacy in a shelter. We were fortunate to have a former Air Force medic with us and he was able to assist the other troop. By the next morning she was doing well but she had a rough couple of hours.
We made dinner and had a very nice fire this night. There was a lot of dead wood and we were all happy for the chance to try out in front of the fire. It was wonderful watching the fog roll into the valley this evening. As soon as it started getting dark we were off to bed. Sleeping at an angle again. We had one more very long day left.
Day three found the Scouts packing quickly so they had time to stop at the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) and get some junk food. I had promised Jay a pint of ice cream at the NOC during our drive to the trail head so he was pretty excited. We had a quick walk down the hill to the NOC.
Jay got his pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey. He ate it in under 15 minutes. I bought a Gatorade for lunch and a Tilley Hat. I’d tried to find the hat before our hike but couldn’t find my size at the store. After a nice break we began the longest climb of the hike. The rest of the day was a long hard climb out of the valley. The climb seemed like it would never end. Every time we thought we were coming to the top we would crest the rise and there was another rise to climb. Not only that it was really hot and it really made the day drag on.
Remember that Gatorade I bought at the bottom of the hill. I was really glad I had it about lunch time when we were running low on water.
We did eventually climb the mountain and make our way to Sassafras Gap. The other Boy Scout troop beat us to the shelter so it was a tent night for everyone. There weren’t a lot of good tent sites at Sassafras and we ended up sleeping at an angle.
We were over hump day.
Our second day started out chilly and windy. Wake up time was 7 AM and the boys were moving a little slow. They reported that they were visited by some mice during the night in the shelter. We got the boys lined up on the ridge for the morning photo and a cautionary tale about 3 bears one the area that a ranger had told Steve, one of the other Scoutmasters with us, about. It was a beautiful sunrise up on the ridge and we could see clouds down in the valleys.
It was a good day of hiking. We made Wesser Bald right around lunch time and had our lunch at the base of the fire tower and then climbed the tower to enjoy the view.
After Wesser we had a long downhill into the Nantahala river basin. I do not enjoy going downhill as it is much rougher on my knees and seems to have a longer effect on my body. I much prefer going uphill.
We finally arrived at the Rufus Morgan Shelter to find the shelter empty so the boys quickly occupied it. Jay and I set up our tent as he had decided the shelter had been too crowded the night before. We went to make dinner and couldn’t find the meal we had packed. We had it at lunch and figured we must have left it at the top of Wesser Bald when we had lunch. Fortunately we were carrying an extra dinner so we ate it. The bigger loss was our package of Mountain Home Blueberry Cheesecake. We had two and had planned to have one them tonight. We had the Blueberry Cheesecake we were supposed to have Tuesday night.
About this time another Boy Scout Troop and Venturer Crew came hiking into camp. They were from Michigan and doing a prep hike for their trip to Philmont this summer.
When we crawled into the tent Jay decided it was too hot in the tent and grabbed his sleeping bag, mat, and pillow and headed to the shelter.
I’ve decided to try and section hike the Appalachain Trail. Hopefully I’ll be doing most of the hikes with one or more of my children and/or my wife. For now I’m in the planning stages, researching equipment and gathering what we will need. The first few hikes may be as part of my son’s Boy Scout Troop who is planning a 50 mile AT hike over spring break 2012.
I recently purchased my son a backpack, REI Ridgeline 65, and am now trying to find one for myself. Most of the adults with the Boy Scout Troop have 85s but the REI sales guy and a buddy of mine who backpacks a lot have both recommended a 65 for me as well. Limiting myself to a 65 may help keep the weight I’ll be carrying down. That would be good for my knees and back.
I think the sleeping bags and pads are going to end up being the largest expense. Especially if I have more than one of my children on a hike. It will still be pretty cold in Mar/Apr and some of the prep hikes we will be doing will be in November, December, and January.
I’ll post our potential gear list later as it firms up. For now it is back to Craig’s list and other sites trying to find some discounts on used equipment.