5.9 miles, 137.3 overall (Nantahala Outdoor Center)
I don’t sleep in. When I wake up at 5:30 I am ready to get going. My mission today, since we weren’t able to make a reservation at the NOC yesterday, is to get in early and book 5 bunks for our group. I like having missions, but they are not compatible with sleep. I begin packing my things in the dark. When I finish packing in my tent I step outside and immediately realize that a headlamp outside the tent is a bad idea when the bugs swarm my face. I am forced to pack the rest of my things in the dark. Trying to be courteous to other hikers I carry my tent out of the campsite and down the trail about 30 yards so I can make noise packing it without waking anyone. By the time I am ready to leave it is 6:30. The sun is still not up so I hike with my headlamp. Hiking with a headlamp is not as bad since I’m moving, so the bugs aren’t a problem. However I am worried about running into wildlife on the trail. During the night I twice heard coyotes howling, and bears could still be out. Usually I try to hike quietly but today I sing while I hike as a precautionary measure.
The hike today is almost all downhill. It is basically a controlled fall for 6 miles. Just before the downhill begins there is a view point called the jump off and I am lucky to hit it just as the sun is about to rise.
The rest of the hike is a blur of downhill motion. I get to the next shelter only a mile from the NOC around 8:30 and there are still people packing up. I pause briefly to log an entry in the shelter register but hurry on before anyone else can beat me to town. I arrive just before 9.
I quickly locate the building where I can reserve bunks and am informed that there is plenty of space available today – 74 bunks available. I go ahead and reserve 5 in 1 room anyway to make sure we are all together. We can’t get into the room until 10 so I move on to the next order of business and visit the restaurant for breakfast.
When I enter the restaurant the waitress asks where I would like to sit. I respond, “wherever you put the smelly hikers” to which she replies “oh you don’t smell.” She obviously wants a big tip. She puts me at a great seat outside next to the river. The NOC is the Nantahala Outdoor Center and is renowned for great kayaking, rafting, etc. It sits directly on the Nantahala River. I order the Fontana hashbrowns, coffee, and 2 eggs. I am rewarded with a heaping pile of home fried potatoes with broccoli, onions, peppers, mushrooms, and cheese. I give Christy a call and let her talk while I eat.
Around the time I finish the others have arrived and it is almost 10:00 so we check on the room. I get the key and a map and we head off to get clean. Showers and laundry are a painstaking affair for hikers. They are sublime in their pleasure, but they take longer than we would like and they put off eating. After showers and laundry we are new people, ready to re-enter civilization. We celebrate with lunch. Burgers are the popular item. Everyone finishes a burger and salad except Red Fury who needs a box for her burger. We all make fun of her.
From lunch we resupply at the outfitter in town. We are all amazed at the lack of hiker fare – no bagels, tortillas, or fish packets to be found! I am able to get enough to supply me to Fontana Dam but I am glad it is only 2 days away. Any more and I would be hurting for food.
From the outfitter we hit the general store and pick up beers for the night. Highlife and Red Fury get large cans of Busch and Bud Light. UV and I split a 6 pack of local oatmeal porter microbrews. We hang out in our bunk room packing for tomorrow drinking our beers and listening to music from my phone. Luckily there isn’t any objection to my music, and Red Fury even asks me a few times what we are listening to.
I spend some time looking at the miles ahead and realize we should book a room at Fontana. Today the lady who booked our room let me know that there is a big group coming in tomorrow and the hostel won’t be open. I don’t want something similar to happen to us in 2 days, so I call ahead and book a room for the 5 of us. I also text the members of our group who are behind us to let them know about the lack of space at the NOC tomorrow when they plan to arrive.
Before bed we order 2 large pizzas and Ninja walks back to the restaurant to get them. We make Red Fury finish her burger from lunch before she can have any. Between the 5 of us we are just about able to finish them. UV and I struggle to finish our beers before bed. By 9 we are all ready for bed and dreading the climb out of the NOC tomorrow on the Appalachian Trail.