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It's been a while, hasn't it?

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My records show that I have not done back-packing on the A.T. since July of 2019. That's a long time! Last year I did get in some day hikes on The Trail, but the total distance was a mere 18.6 miles. This last week I got just under 13 miles in about 48 hours of finding out my trail legs have lost quite a bit of zip.

My planning continues to be (1) driving to that point on the A.T. that I have not yet hiked, (2) parking to this Point A, (3) getting a shuttle from Point A to Point B, a few days hike from 'A', and (4) walking back to 'A.' At this point in my treks, step (1) involves almost two days of driving each way, so I have to choose my Point A wisely. Because I feared -- correctly, unfortunately -- that I wouldn't be able to do my usual daily mileage without great pain; I chose a quite minor hike of Burningtown Gap north to the Natahala Outdoor Center (NOC).

Because (1) it has been quite some time since I've been back-packing and (2) insects want my blood more than the Red Cross does; I decided to re-spray Permethrin on my hiking clothes. Unfortunately, the spray on my bottle stopped working as I did so, the night before I left. So I tried just pouring the liquid on my socks, with not the best results. When some spilled onto my hands, I was sure I only had days to live. After spraying water on my hands for 20 minutes, I read about the actual toxicity of this stuff
and concluded I still had a few more years left to hike. I also decided to buy another bottle of the stuff -- you'll easily find it at many Walmarts -- and re-spray my clothes while at the motel I'll have to use to get to the NOC from Philadelphia.

NOC has no problem with people parking at their facility, at no charge, IF you get a permit at the General Store. Just walk in, tell the clerks how long you intend to stay, and they'll give you a permit (place this behind your front windshield) and a map showing where you should park -- clerks were very friendly about this. My shuttle arrived right on time, drove me my starting point, and off I went -- 1.2 miles to the Cold Spring Shelter. With four people already there, one of them having set up a tent inside the shelter, I immediately decided to walk a a couple hundred yards north to the tenting area. Water is flowing quite well at the spring right in front of the shelter, but there are no bear cables there.

As I went north to Tellico Gap, recognized that I had, somewhere about there, surpassed 1600 miles on The Trail. Since the sky couldn't have been more clear, I then looked forward to getting to the Wesser Bald Tower for the views. They were great!
Based on the comments in Guthooks, I then made a mistake that others have made there, of the type I have almost NEVER made. Plain and simple, I took off on the wrong trail -- for almost an hour, downhill. I almost didn't believe Guthooks when it (correctly) told me I was headed back to Tellico Gap, because I KNEW that I was not going back down the way I came up. I was correct in my conclusion, but I didn't have all the facts -- problem was, there is ANOTHER trail, a former road, going between the gap and the tower. I walked back up to the tower, sadder but still not wiser, hoping to figure out my mistake. Guthooks had several comments that the trail turned left at the tower, but I simply couldn't see any such turn.
The solution is simple, but subtle: the A.T. does not go all the way TO the tower, it just comes close to it. This schematic I created shows how one could get confused
and this photo shows what you'll actually see when you get there
White lines are the actual A.T., and red lines are the trail (couple dozen yards) to the tower. Don't repeat my mistake!

Spent the night with one other hiker at the Wesser Bald Shelter, that does have a few bear cables. If you're heading north, get your water at the spring just south of the shelter.

The weather on the next day was just as clear as the day before, so I got some wonderful views at the "Jump-Up." I almost never take photos while back-packing -- most views aren't that photogenic, or are just better at vistas you can drive to -- but this trip featured over a dozen shots.
Then came the 2300 foot, 4.5 miles descent to the NOC. I knew it was coming, and it wasn't as bad as it looked, but I was still feeling pretty worn-out when I got to the Wayah Shelter. Fortunately, a 30-minute rest while there restored myself, and I was actually singing "Val-de-ree, val-de-rah" as I got to the NOC.
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