After a sweet stay with our friend Suzanna, Pat and I hit the trail hard with a 4 mile day. Our town day was so busy and full, we both felt that a nearo was in order. It was a good group at the shelter, and we stayed warm and passed some pleasant hours around a fire.
And then we pumped out a 20 mile day over gentle hills at elevation, leaving Georgia behind us. We’d be in North Carolina and Tennessee for the next few hundred miles, and in total we were just approaching our 100 mile mark. Pat started putting in some barefoot miles here as we were enjoying some sunny, warm weather.
Another 16 mile day and we found ourselves in Franklin, NC, spending the night in town to resupply and rest our feet. The day’s hike was lovely, with gorgeous views of Albert Mountain (and a nasty uphill climb).
Out of Franklin, with bellies full of pizza and other town delicacies, we cruised the 6 miles to our first trail magic–Fresh Ground’s all-you-can-eat trail buffet. “All you can eat, all you can tote!” he chanted as hiker after hiker filed in from the Franklin shuttle. Hotdogs, salad, fruit, coffee, soup–I couldn’t stop grinning, even so soon out of town.
It fueled us another 10 miles to a shelter not far from the Nantahala Outdoor Center, where we hoped to find shelter from an approaching rainstorm. Although both our feet were starting to ache, we pushed it. My pack cover is worn out and barely holds out any moisture, so we felt it necessary to avoid rain as best we could. Holing up at Cold Spring Shelter put us a manageable 11 miles from the NOC, and we busted ass to get there before the forecasted rain. It started to rain at 1pm on the dot, just as we pulled in to Rufus Morgan Shelter, a mere 0.8 mile from the NOC. During a dry spell, we cruised down the last hill and right to our little bunkroom. A warm lunch and a nap filled my afternoon; Pat explored and made more food for dinner.
The next morning, I bought those nice SuperFeet insoles to combat increasing heel pain, and Pat finally bought himself a short-sleeved shirt and a pair of shorts. We had a long climb back to elevation that took up most of the day; unfortunately, on this climb, Pat came to the conclusion that he would benefit from insoles, too, to alleviate pain in his feet. We camped that night just under halfway from Fontana Dam.
Yesterday, Pat’s feet really started hurting. He hiked barefoot for a while to give himself a break from the heel pain, but in the process built up a massive blister covering the whole of the ball of his foot. So we came up with a plan to give ourselves a rest in Fontana before getting into the Smokies. Lots of ibuprofen later, we descended a few thousand feet and crashed at the Fontana Dam Shelter, aka the Fontana Hilton, with another dozen or so hikers coming off a zero.
In the morning, we walked up the hill to find Fresh Ground’s set up, with coffee and hot dogs a plenty. We hitched into town and splurged on a room at the lodge here, which turned out to be a whole cabin, since it’s the off-season here. It’s cold today, and was awfully cold last night, and we are grateful to have a warm bed tonight.
With an eye on the weather,we’re planning our trip through the Smokies. It’s supposed to be cold, then start to rain, and with Pat’s achy feet, we are a little trepidatious. But the day’s rest and plenty of food from our resupply, we’re as ready as we can be. And with a planned stop in Asheville just on the other side, and a pesky permit situation that only gives us 7 nights total to get through the Smokies, we hope to cruise through and postpone our rest for a week or so.