May 18th 2018
Cold spring shelter – Sassafras Gap shelter (mile 143.6)
18.6 miles
Total miles: 152.4

Given that the shelter was full and I was touching the people either side of me, I slept really well. Even when the older guys alarm went off at 5am, I woke up but went back to sleep and didn’t hear him pack up at all. He got my food bag down for me and left it hung on a nail inside the cabin. When I saw him later he said he had a mouse in his bag ‘helping’ him pack up, and he could feel them running across his sleeping bag in the night. Well I was right next to him so if they were running over his sleeping bag then they were probably running over mine too. I didn’t notice anything.

It rained all night long without stopping

One of the ‘dads’ from the modern family came over to wake up the ‘kids’. I felt like I was one of the kids as I let out a groan with the rest of them signalling none of us wanted to get up. Not the reason I’ve used ‘dad’ and ‘kids’ in inverted commas is because I found out today that this is a story the kids made up because they thought it was funny. These boarding school students decided to tell people that their tutors were a gay couple and they were the adoptive children. It is funny and I will continue to refer to them as Modern Family.

They hung their food so it was away from the bears, but you can’t stop the mice. The mice managed to get into their food bags and chew through the ziplock bags and had a feast on tortillas, crackers and oats, among other things. And now all their ziplocks have holes in them they got filled with water from the rain. Bummer.

In the privy there was a notice similar to most of the other notices in all the other privys, no wet wipes (including ‘flushable ones’), no food (because of the mice), no feminine hygiene products (tampons, pads etc) and then there was another line, no spiked clothing (including spiked underwear). Now all of these things are on the list because they have caused problems in the past right? Who has been chucking their soiled underwear in the privy?!

I felt good this morning, just a tiny way up the trail I saw Ed who was packing up his wet tent and i was sure he would blaze past me on the uphill as it was steep up to Wesser Bald, after a steep descent. Ed left his phone cable and his gaiters in the motel he stayed in in Franklin, so he borrowed my cord to charge his phone and I felt quite naked without it!

It was about 5 miles to the top of Wesser Bald and I was expecting everyone to pass me, but I was only passed by two of the Modern Family. I was hiking well this morning. I was flying down the down and maintaining a decent speed on the uphill. The trail was like a river in some parts and just giant puddles in others, there was no point trying to avoid them so I ploughed straight on through. At the top was a lookout tower and the views were nice in between the breaks in the clouds. The rest of the Modern Family joined us at the top but there was no sign of Ed which I thought was unusual. I sat and ate some crisps and cheese, the only things I am really enjoying at the moment.

Next up was a huge descent all the way down to the Nantahala Outdoor Centre (NOC). I was flying, ignoring the pain in my left knee as I went downhill. I leapfrogged a bit with the Modern Family and eventually about half way down Ed caught me up. He went in the lead for a bit but he was having problems with his knees, as so many people do on the downhill, and I went in the lead. I felt so good, I was getting a 3 mile an hour pace and we were at NOC before 1pm. It started to drizzle a bit as just as we got under the porch the heavens opened and it pissed down. Perfect timing!

It’s a strange place. Really geared up for hikers so if you needed any gear you can definitely get it here. They have a small general store which sells snacks mostly and it’s not too badly priced, and there is a restaurant there and the food looked really good. I was going to get food but I decided in the end I was more thirsty than hungry, so I got a chocolate milk and an orange Fanta afterwards. I’m not sure it’s the best combination and I imagined it doing all sorts of horrible curdling in my stomach, but oh they tasted so good. Had the timing worked out better it would have been a nice place to stay for the night, but I’m on a reasonably tight schedule so I can’t justify stopping for the day at 1pm.

It is a super touristy place and lots of people were seeking out the AT sign on the road to have their picture taken with it.

Ed considered staying but decided to hike out with me instead at we had to go 7.5 miles uphill to get to the next shelter. There were some campsites on the way but it is due to rain again tonight and I wanted to be in a shelter. We thought we would be alright because we aren’t seeing that many people on the trail (I think maybe some people have got off the trail and have gone to trail days, which is a big weekend event in Damascus, Virginia) and the shelter sleeps 14 people.

The climb was brutal. I was no longer quick and my pace slowed to a crawl. It was also incredibly humid and I had sweat just pouring out of my face. Ed was way ahead of me somewhere and In a Rush blazed past me as I was stopped taking a picture of a flower. Any excuse for a mini break. I wasn’t too worried about the pace. I had a good 7 hours of daylight so even if I was doing 1 mile an hour I would get there.

I occupied myself with the little orange lizardy things, it’s a good job they are bright otherwise I would have stepped on them. Some of the climbs were so steep and I had to keep stopping just to get my breath back. I was having really problems with my feet. They were so sore. I know it was to do with how my shoes were laced. I re-laced them about 5 times. This was the first time I had problems with my shoes and it all stemmed from tightening them up when I was doing that big downhill. I eventually got them sorted out.

I stopped for some delicious water which was just tumbling out of the mountain over the rocks. The water was so good, but the flies were all over me so I couldn’t stand still for long.

It took me forever (4 hours) to make it to the shelter and when I got there it was packed. Brilliantly Ed saved me a spot inside so I don’t have to pitch my tent, but there are a whole bunch of people camped around the shelter. Some on not very flat spots!

I had no desire to heat water so I ended up eating crisps with that fish less tuna I’ve been carrying for a few days now. It was…interesting. The flavour was nice enough but the texture was weird. I’ve never eaten cat food, but it is what I imagine the texture of cat food to be. And it looked exactly like cat food too!

Ed, the little gem that he is, went and hung the food bags, and I have managed to get away without doing it once yet! I think I’ll make a great big mess of it when the time comes. There are so many people here and half of them were tucked up in the sleeping bags at 6pm! That’s a little early. It’s 8pm now and I am lying down in my sleeping bag for two, well three reasons. My legs are throbbing. It’s cold. I am writing this.

The front of the shelter is very open and there is quite a wind blowing through. There are some people snoring already and I’m pretty sure there will be some mice creeping around. Not sure how great the night will be but at least I will be dry!

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