Monday March 18, 27.9miles/44.9km
Panther Gap (111.5) to Spring near Grassy Gap (139.4) (NC)
I knew that I wanted to get to the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) tonight for dinner, so I woke up early. Even though it was only 25F/-4C, I left my tent and started walking at 7:30am.
The first summit of the day came an hour later, 5200ft Siler Bald.
The trail was quite nice again today, it even had bridges for the little creeks.
And even though it’s still early spring, and almost everything is brown, the rhododendrons decided to make me a “green tunnel”.
The next summit was Wayah Bald, and it has a stone tower on the top. I noticed many summits here are called “balds”, the sign here explained that it’s a treeless summit usually due to historical grazing.
At lunch, I had a lemon energy bar, and it had good news.
It was a quick lunch, since I was getting cold in the 45F temperature. The third summit was Rocky Bald, and then all the big climbs were done for the day. The afternoon miles went pretty quickly.
At Wesser Bald tower, I ran into a guy doing trail magic! He goes by the name “muffin man”, and is camera shy. A delicious surprise!
I saw that I still had about 2 hours before dinner, so I stopped at Wesser Bald shelter and had a snack. The shelters here are pretty nice, and have a covered cooking area.
And nearby, a sign of spring! I don’t know the name of these yellows…
I cruised down the hill for 6.5miles/3000ft down, and got to the NOC at 5:30pm. It’s a outdoor recreation campus that has lodging, dining, Whitewater rafting, canoeing, ziplining, mountain biking, and hiking.
Most of the campus is still closed, as it’s before April 1st. But one of the restaurants is open! So I got the “hiker burger” which has the most calories of anything on the menu.
There weren’t any cabin bunks available, and it was only 6:30pm when I finished dinner, so I hiked a couple miles up the hill. It will make tomorrow shorter!