So I finally have a chance to update the blog! I haven't had a signal since I was in Hiawassee, GA last Friday. Gronk and I are about to head back out on the trail this morning, but we took a 'zero' day (0 miles hiked) yesterday to relax, recover, and resupply in Franklin, NC. Yep, that's right - we're now in NC! We crossed the border at about the 87 mile mark on Wednesday. And just yesterday, just below the summit of Albert Mountain, we hit the 100 mile mark. It's a great feeling to reach these first important milestones.
But I'll back up a bit since it's been over a week since the last post...
Last Wednesday, Gronk and I hiked Blood Mountain, which had spectacular views at the top. We looked down and watched hawks circling below us. Blood Mountain was apparently named for an indian massacre, but the name would have been appropriate to describe the difficulty of the climb up, and down. Once we started descending, it began to rain. The temperature started dropping and we were getting cold, although we each had on rain gear and warm weather clothing. The 1.5 mile climb down the mountain was actually quite dangerous as we hastily made our way through steep areas with slippery rocks and narrow, muddy paths. Once we made it to the bottom, we entered Neel Gap, where there was an outfitter with a hostel called Mountain Crossings. The trail actually runs right through the building, and is the only place where the trail runs through a man-made structure. We dropped our packs at the door and entered the warm building to find ourselves grabbing some junk food before even taking a second to dry off. We decided to spend the night in the hostel, which was only $15 and included a shower and laundry. The hostel turned out to be quite a bit of fun. A guy named Pirate greeted us as we entered the hostel and showed us around. Pirate was a former thru-hiker, who has racked up 10 thrus on the AT, among other trails. I guess you could call him a legend (and quite a character). Pirate showed us his collection of over 3,000 VHS tapes that he had purchased from a movie store that had gone out of business last year, so we had plenty of entertainment at the hostel (mostly 80's flicks).
But the best part about the hostel was the people that we met that stayed in the 18-bunk room that night. Here are the trail names, most of who we still see from day-to-day: Blue, Simba, Steemer, Ketchup, Lighthouse, Nuclear, Rooster, Tank-Tank, Bones, and a few others who don't yet have trail names. Which reminds me, I now have an official trail name - MacGyver. Gronk came up with the name after I offered a few crafty fixes and improvements. I have to say that I'm really happy with the name since I was quite the MacGyver fan in the 80's and 90's.
Well, I have so much more to write, but just not enough time. Even though we took a zero yesterday, the time flew by with chores to prepare for the upcoming hike out of Franklin. We plan to reach the Nantahala Outdoor Center in 3 days, then Fontana Dam in another 3, which will be the official beginning of the Smoky Mountains. The weather forecast is calling for cool temps with rain next week, so it may be a tough haul coming up. But we'll take it as it comes...
I'll try my best to update when possible, but it's just too unpredictable when I will have access to a signal to create a post. I'll also try to get some more pictures up this week, if possible, but I've now got to go jump on the shuttle to take us out of Franklin back to Rock Gap to begin our hike.