Day 18 and prior.
Today we are at the Nantahala Outdoor Center in Bryson City, NC. We got here yesterday after a dreadful downhill section that will probably only get worse as erosion takes its toll. The section was burned by the wildfires last year and without much vegetation, stands to lose a lot of soil if hard rains come. Parts of the down seemed liked you were standing on a rock with a cliff on either side. No, it wasn’t that bad, but felt like it.
We got to the NOC which is a perfect blend of backpacking and whitewater river rafting. The AT goes right through the campus and there have been major rafting events here and the campus has produced several Olympians. They have an Outfitter here and the store is amazing with its selection. Good thing I don’t need anything.
Actually I did need one thing, my Smokies permit. There is a special permit for thru-hikers. Costs $20 and we have 8 days to get through the Smokies once we enter. We are required to stay in the shelters to limit our impact on the environment, however, if the shelters are full thru-hikers are “kicked out” and we have to then tent. I was told this is because they believe thru hikers are more up to speed on Leave No Trace practices and will limit the impact on the environment.
Whether or not that is true, I have seen all sorts of ridiculousness so far on this hike. The Boy Scouts have it right in teaching outdoor ethics by a long way. I believe nature belongs to all of us, but also wish there was a way to educate people better about it. With rights, or privileges, comes responsibility. Too often the responsibility part is forgotten. I don’t feel comfortable walking up to people I don’t know and correcting their mistakes. If I know someone for a bit that is different. It is more like teaching, than lecturing.
So, yesterday I was hiking uphill, and if you have followed along you know I hate uphill and only now am beginning to get better at it. It takes some time for me to get a rhythm going where my steps, my arms and poles and my breathing are in sync and I can keep moving. So stopping just kills that for me and I have to go through the process again. So yesterday, I am hiking uphill and I look up and see seven people coming my way. Day hikers. Might have been two days ago….anyway….the gal in front has long blonde hair tied up and a bright pink coat and the whole deal. I keep moving, uphill has the right of way for all of the reasons I have spoken about above. It is hard to regain momentum uphill. We were literally about two feet apart when I finally had to jump off of the trail to avoid a collision. She was not going move. I was fuming. The third guy from the back says to me, “Hey, aren’t we supposed to let you pass?” Yes. Tell that to the dingbat up front please.
Overall that kind of stuff has been few and far between. The amount of garbage seen on the trail and in the fire pits has been surprising, but a lot of my background backpacking has been Philmont and the scouts simply don’t leave trash all over. They are taught better, so I am spoiled in that regard.
Today we did a whitewater rafting trip. The troop does one every couple years at Kosirs. Dick Peiters has property near there and has been kind enough to allow the troop to camp on his property in order to access Kosirs which is down the street. This was very similar and it was fun. The water was ice cold and the sun really hot. So another zero today, this one unplanned, but in terms of timing not a bad time. Tomorrow starts some massive uphill climbs and then the Smokies. The next two weeks has me a bit worried, but if I can somehow get through them, I think the rest is doable.
So for the rest of today, fuel up my body with good food and repack my gear for an extended stretch of backpacking. I will be stopping in Fontana Dam to resupply in a few days and then hit the Smokies.