We made the decision last night to push ahead to Franklin, North Carolina since it was supposed to rain all day today and our gear was already somewhat wet from the night before. And rain it did. The rain lasted all night and into the afternoon. To be honest, hiking in the rain isn’t all that bad. What’s terrible about it is when you think about setting up camp in the rain. Your gear is soaked, you’re cold, wet, and you still have to make dinner, set up your tent (if there’s no room in the shelter), and hang your bear bag. All in the rain. So you can see why a zero day in town during this rainy spell was enticing. Of course, we will have to endure those multiple rainy days at some point, but I hope it happens when the trail has thinned out more and there will actually be room for us in a shelter.
It was a great day hiking-wise, although it would have been nice to see the views instead of thick fog all day. The pain in my right heel completely disappeared and the blister on my right heel seems to be healing up nicely. Today, my right knee was sore, but felt better as the day wore on. Seems like everyday it’s something different.
The first part of the day wasn’t bad, but the rain was coming down. Our only big climb of the day was Albert Mountain, standing at 5,250 feet. It was wet, muddy, and steep going up the mountain, but still a great hike. I’m really loving the hiking here in North Carolina so far. The environment around us seems almost tropical. Although, the weather certainly is not. Everyone out here is hoping for some warmer weather soon, especially since we’ll be entering the Smokies soon.
We took a break at a brand new shelter, Long Branch, to eat something and to call the motel in Franklin to see if they had any rooms. Thankfully, they had rooms available, so it gave us renewed energy to keep moving and make it to Winding Stair Gap. We leap-frogged with the three guys we stayed with at the shelter that we met on our first day of hiking. We all made it to the gap at the same time and were greeted with the most amazing trail magic. After hiking our longest day yet at 15.7 miles, a cooler of Krispy Kremes and sodas awaited us at Winding Stair Gap. I quickly downed a doughnut and a Coke before waiting for our shuttle in the parking lot. I could probably count the number of times I’ve had a Coke in my life on one hand, but the one today really hit the spot. As humans, we are built to adapt. Well I think I can adapt to drinking a few sodas here and there while hiking.
To help ourselves get through the long day of hiking, we played a few games as we hiked. We made it through naming the presidents, states, state capitals, countries, MLB teams, NFL teams, NBA teams, NHL teams, and Best Picture winners. Talk about a couple of nerds. But you know, it helped us get through our day, so make fun of us all you want. 🙂
One of the things we changed in our daily routine is our eating habits while we hike. Instead of stopping for one big lunch during the day, we’ve broken that up into three lunch/snack breaks. We’re finding this works a lot better in terms of maintaining our energy level and gives us more chances to break during the day. We took some advice from two fellow hikers from Colorado and have been taking out the food we’ll eat during the day out of our food bags and have stuck them into an outside pocket of our packs for easy access. For hydration, we’ve stuck with the same system we started with on the first day. We have water I our Camelbaks, which we can drink on the go, and fill a plastic bottle with Gatorade powder packets to drink during breaks. Poptarts and a Clif bar in the morning give us enough energy to get through the first couple hours of hiking and a hot dinner at night hits the spot.
We are now in our hotel room, watching March Madness, eating Domino’s, drinking Yuengling’s Black & Tan, and are all cleaned up after a few tough days of hiking. A hot shower was perfect after a rainy day of hiking and we did laundry in an actual washer and dryer for the first time since Neels Gap. Tomorrow, we’ll resupply at the grocery store, rest our feet, and pick up a few supplies at the local outfitter. And I’ll probably take a few more showers before we start hiking again, just for fun.
Since I’m in town, I have more time and battery life to update my blog. Although, I have been surprised at the consistency of service along the trail. Things aren’t as remote as they seem! Here are some photos from the past 10 days of our hike.