I have lost track of how many days I have been walking in the rain. I think it has been three, and it doesn’t look like it is breaking anytime soon. I was warned that it rains a lot in the Appalachians during the spring, and now I believe it. My friend Darry Wood delivered me to the Winding Stair Gap on Wednesday, March 25. It was raining cats and dogs. It was emotional saying goodbye to my dear friend and hiking off into the cold rain. Once I got into the rhythm of hiking, I was fine. I climbed about a thousand feet in four and a half miles to the top of Siler Bald. Some of the high mountain in this area have few trees and beautiful grassy meadows on top. It was beautiful, but everything was shrouded in fog. I descended almost a thousand feet to Wayah Gap and then climbed two thousand to the top of Wayah Bald. It was beautiful here, but very strange. You see, this high bald has been historically significant to the people from Franklin, NC. Way back in the 1930′s Franklin Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps hired a bunch of unemployed young men to improve the road to this destination. Even though it was still a dirt road, this bald became a popular destination point for the people of Franklin and the surrounding area. A stone observation tower was built to admire the surrounding mountains. On some weekends, there were so many people up there they would have church services on top of the bald. Well, when I arrived solo about 2:00 that afternoon, the stone tower was enveloped in white clouds. I climbed to the top and looked out into the whiteness. On a clear day, I would have been able to see my future destination of the Smoky Mountains. But today, you guessed it, all I saw was white. I descended from the bald and ended up my 11 mile hike of the day at the Wayah Shelter. When, I got in at 3:30, only two other people were there. By 7:00, it was packed! It was still raining, so I kept my place in the shelter rather than setting up my tent. After everyone fixed their individual suppers, we all crashed at 7:00. This is the earliest I have ever gone to bed in my life. There was nothing else to do! That night, I had a mouse run across my face. The shelter mice are very bold and have no fear. Luckily, this mouse stayed out of my sleeping bag. Otherwise, I would have been out of there! The next day, still in the cold rain, I did another 11 miles to the Wesser Bald shelter. The rain had temporarily stopped, and the mood of the packed shelter was totally different from the day before. There were stories, songs, and a lot of laughter. I even sang a song and accompanied myself with my harmonica. My song: “Somebody Robbed the Glendale Train” by New Riders of the Purple Sage. You have to be a Sixties person to know that song. Today, I hiked down to the Nantahala River, a five mile descent. I am staying in a cabin tonight, shared with Screaming Steven from Tennessee and a really old guy, Rusty, from Pompano Beach, FLA. I got a shower, and a bunch of us thru-hikers are eating together in the restaurant tonight. Tomorrow, it is on to Fontana Dam via a very long ascent to the high country. I am using the computer in the office of the Nantahala Outdoor Center, by their good graces. They close in five minutes, so no proof reading, no photos. But I’ll try to be in touch soon under more relaxed conditions. I hope the rain stops.
All my best,
Braid, AKA Joe Liles