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jburgasser

Just Got Back from Southern North Carolina!

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Name:	76. Ickybod & Fenway at Wayah Bald Lookout Tower.jpg 
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Hi, this is Ickybod. My father-in-law, Fenway and I spent last week doing the 81 miles from the Deep Gap parking area in Southern north Carolina to Fontana Dam. What an awesome hike! We got a shuttle from Fanklin down to the end of Forest Service Road 71 and got on the trail at 7:30 am. We got to the highest point in the whole trip in the 1st hour, on the summit of Standing Indian Mountain. Enroute we passed Standing Indian Shelter and met a couple hikers we would end up seeing a few more times during our hike. We hiked 15.4 miles to Big Spring Shelter that 1st day, finishing at 6:00 pm. The other highlight was scrambling up Albert Mountain. The giude book calls that 0.3 mile portion a "rememberable scramble up the southern side of the mountain". Yeah, I would call it a bit more than rememberable!
Day 2 took us to Siler Bald shelter, arriving at 5:30. That is the day I got my new trail name (Ickybod), due to my friend Steve (was with us the first 2 -1/2 days) telling stories to our shelter mates about me back in my college days. I also got attacked by a hornet during lunch. I found out I am not allergic them, thank goodness! 13.2 miles for day 2.
Day 3 was a short day (6.8 miles) to Wayah Shelter due to the reports of a bear at the next shelter (Cold Spring) that had figured out how to snatch hiker's food. I don't know if he was taking it from hikers who chose to sleep with their food or had figured out how to chew through hanging rope, but I did not want to put my PCT hanging method to the test, on purpose anyway. We dropped of my friend Steve at Wayah Gap (and got 2 days of food out of his car) and he drove home, while Fenway and I continued on to Wayah Shelter. A mile befiore the shelter is a very cool viewing tower that would probably make for an awesome place to spend the night, but I am sure that is discouraged. You can see Clingman's Dome from the top level. Very cool. So we get to the shelter and there is one other hiker there, Wilderness. After a while an older couple show up Joe and Mary. Later on I very very safe for the evening because as Joe said "You never know; we may be THE Joe and Mary". I had hung my tent up on my rope earlier that afternoon to dry it out a bit after the rain from the day before but it started raining again so the tent came down. The rain continued pretty much all night. More people showed up and by the time I went to bed we had 6 people on the platform shoulder-to-shoulder and 4 people (and 1 dog) on tarps on the dirt under the overhanging roof. 1 person hung between 2 trees. I guess sometime around 9:00 another person showed up and found an empty place on the ground and joined in the sleepfest. I don't know who makes the decisions for how many these shetlers can hold, but whoever decided that Wayah Shelter is set up for 8 people must not be as tall or wide as I am. There was no way we could have squeezed anther 2 people up on that platform. We met a bunch of great people that day including Wilderness, Joe & Mary, someone people were calling John Malkovich because he has a resemblance (his trail name in Iriquois for "peace"), Evan, and G-foot, Blackfoot, his wife, and their dog. My father-in-law also got his trail name that day: Fenway.
Day 4 we left early (for us): 7:45, and hiked to the N.O.C. It was a hard 16.5 mile day that we made probably only because we knew we would have showers, laundry, and a mattress to sleep on that night. Not to mention resturant food! I actually decided to call ahead to the N.O.C. and make reservations for that night while Fenway and I were eating lunch at Wesser Bald shelter. We got to the N.O.C. at 4:45, got our room keys, wandered around for 30 minutes trying to figure out where the heck our room wase at, then got down to the outfitter store to pick up a food drop I mailed and I bought new boots.
Day 5 was a killer out of the N.O.C. We left at 7:00 am and started the 5.5 mile climb up to Swim Bald. We ended up doing 16 that day to get to Brown Fork Gap Shelter. We may have stopped a couple miles shy of that but we had run out of water! There is a 0.6 mile piece of trail that is at 24% grade that we were hoping to tackle first thing the next morning and not at the end of a tough day but we had no choice. It worked out for the best though because later at the shelter Wilderness, Evan, and John Malkovich showed up and we had a good time getting to know each other better. I swear, if the real world was more like life on the trail, we would be so much better off!!
Day 6 turned out to be our last day. We got to Fontana Marina right where the trail crossed NC 28. When Fenway realized we could call from there and get a shuttle for $3 to Fontana Village to eat at a resturant and call our shuttle from there to get us back to our car and a hotel in Franklin, he pretty much shut it down. Our plan was to get to the GSMNP sign on the north side of the dam but I guess we'll have to wait see that next year! I should of told him I was was going to the sign with or without him. It is less than 2 miles from that point. We did get to see Joe again at Cable Gap shelter when we were having lunch. He is a great old guy; classic southerner with lots of great stories.
Since we finished a day early we spent our 7th day white water rafting out of the N.O.C. and shopping for goodies for my kids. I think my lasting impression of this year's section hike is simply, if the real world was more like life on the trail, what a wonderful world it would be!
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