View Full Version : AT, NC Balds to NOC, June 2-4, 2012

2012-06-14, 18:08
June 2, 2012

This was my first trip of summer vacation, and I was excited. After dropping my truck at Nantahala Outdoor Center, my wife dropped me at Winding Stair Gap, just west of Franklin, NC. It was a late start, about 12:45. Dewey Bear and I stepped off and began climbing. I was still feeling the effects of some bronchitis earlier in spring, but a couple of puffs from my inhaler helped.

Despite hiking the AT on a Saturday, I was pleased to have the trail all to myself. I made good time to Siler Bald.

Unfortunately, just as I started up the bald, a large group of southbound dayhikers arrived and quickly began heading up the bald behind me. I had no desire to share the summit with a large group, so I settled in about halfway up the bald and enjoyed the view and the solitude while I ate lunch. Dewey pointed out Wayah Bald behind him.

Wayah seemed a long way off, but I planned to be there before the day was done. So Dewey and I packed up and continued on. We passed several more dayhikers and a couple of southbound backpackers. Upon crossing Wayah Road, we began to climb again. I was definitely feeling it, between rough lungs and tired legs. I was glad for a break to the Wilson Lick Historic Site, down a short side trail.

After returning to the trail, I trudged up to FS 69 and the water source there.

It was getting late, and I decided to gather water here and headed up the road to Wayah Bald, rather than at Wine Spring as I’d originally planned. I made good time and reached the firetower around 7 PM.

I wanted to find a spot to hang just downhill from the tower, but the only decent spot within a few hundred yards was pretty much on the summit.

I boiled water and dumped it into a freeze-dried dinner. Then Dewey and I headed up to the tower to enjoy the view while dinner steeped.

The wind picked up and the tower became genuinely cold. I layered up in my windgear.

Dewey found other ways to avoid the wind.

But I was able to enjoy dinner as I watched the sun set…

… and the moon rise.

A handful of locals arrived to enjoy the view as I was heading down. They were friendly and we exchanged a few greetings and comments before I retired to my hammock for the evening.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

I slept a bit rough overnight. I woke several times as the trees I was attached to shook from strong winds. I slept in after the sun rose. Finally I was up and moving by around 9 AM. Once, again, I saw nobody as I hiked onward. I made good time and enjoyed lunch at Cold Spring Shelter.

From there, I trudged on. I headed down to Tellico Gap, knowing the climb up to Wesser Bald would be tiring near the end of a long hiking day. As I neared Tellico Gap, a section hiker passed me and asked if I had seen a friend he was hiking with. I informed him he was the first hiker I had seen all day. When I arrived at the gap, he was arranging a shuttle to Aquone Hostel, a new one in the area.

I avoided the temptation to spend the night in a hostel and began the walk uphill. Within a few hundred yards of the summit, I was passed by yet another group of dayhikers headed up to the firetower. I was 0 for 3 on solitary views for the hike. After a bit more slow grinding uphill, I arrived at the summit and tower.

I sat below and enjoyed some lemonade and a snack and relaxed. After about 20 minutes, the dayhikers came down and headed back to Tellico Gap. Dewey and I then ascended the steps and enjoyed the views up above.

Dewey seemed surprised how high we had climbed, insisting it was a long way down.

Then we headed down ourselves. I was grateful for an easy downhill walk to the beautiful cistern spring that was the water source for Wesser Bald Shelter.

I could hear several voices coming from the shelter from a good 200 yards away. Having gotten spoiled from years of hiking on more solitary trails, I decided to hang my hammock out of sight and mind.

I apparently did an OK job of stealth camping. I made no real effort to hide any noise and it caused concerns for at least one hiker who had stayed at the shelter. He was heading down from the spring when I heard him shouting “Hey!” and “Haw!” Then he began throwing rocks or logs downhill. I thought that he couldn’t possibly be chasing away a bear or I would have heard it come crashing through the brush. After a few minutes of this, when he finally got close to my hammock, I calmly asked if he was trying to scare away a bear or a bear. He was shocked to realize he had completely missed my hammock and tarp on his way up to the spring. He had heard me coughing or grunting and assumed a bear was in the area.

I drifted off to sleep, hoping that Dewey was the biggest baddest bear he would encounter on his hike.

Monday, June 4, 2012

I awoke about 3 AM to rain. I got out just long enough to pull my tarp over the hammock and snug down the two loose cords.

I awoke around 7, ate breakfast, and packed up under my tarp. Finally, around 8, I stepped off. Thankfully, the trail was nearly all downhill. My body felt rough, like it just wasn’t completely over the bug from the previous month. Added to the mugginess of the saturated woods, I was not nearly as energetic as I normally would be heading into a town. I stopped long enough to snap a picture at the Jumpoff.

Then I pushed on downhill. My legs felt tired just from slowing me down on the nearly 3000 foot descent. Still I managed a meager 2 MPH and soon arrived at Rufus Morgan Shelter. I grabbed some water and a quick snack, then headed downhill again. I was very glad to arrive at NOC and my truck.

I headed down to the bathhouse and showered, then grabbed a to-go order from the River’s End restaurant. Then I headed home. This section didn’t give me the uplifting experience I’d hope for. Still, it was a decent start to my summer hiking. I knew I would feel better in time.

2012-06-15, 09:29
nice looking trip.

2012-06-15, 09:49
I always enjoy your trip reports.

2012-06-15, 10:48
This one was a little on the tough side. First trip in a couple of months after being pretty sick. I was definitely a bit out of shape, and this section is not the easiest (though nowhere near the toughest either). I was tired enough that I didn't enjoy it the way I thought I would, since it covers some gorgeous views. But still not bad.

Oddly enough, Georgia, which offers few views, was mellow enough, and I had toughened up a bit, so I liked that little section more.

2012-06-15, 11:13
it's amazing how long after recovering from bronchitis will still pull you down, glad Dewey let you go hiking with him, great trip report as always and you suck.

2012-06-15, 14:11
Thanks for posting and sharing.