Wednesday, April 01, 2009

NOC to Brown Fork Gap

Wednesday, 4/1

AT Miles = 16.0 / 151
Other Miles = 0.1 / 13.1
Total Miles = 16.1 / 164.1

I had a good night at the NOC last night. After hanging around in the common room of the hostel for a couple of hours chatting with other hikers, I headed back to my bunk to sleep figuring I would be woken up when the heavy drinkers came to bed later in the night, but apparently I slept through their entrance as the next thing I knew it was morning.

It rained all night and was still raining when I walked back across the river to the restaurant for breakfast at 8:00am. When I left the restaurant and started hiking about 8i:50 the rain was tapering off but was still heavy enough that I hiked in my rain gear.

It took a few minutes of exploring to figure out where the trail left the NOC parking lot, but I finally found the place where it crossed the railroad tracks and headed up the hill.

It was a tough day. I only covered 16 miles but this 16 miles included a LOT of steep climbing. The first 6 miles were all uphill and the next 10 miles were a constant up and down. At the beginning of the day I figured I would be done by 4:00, but in actuality I didn't arrive here until after 5:00, totally spent.

The first half of the day was rainy or overcast, and I hiked in the heavy fog I have become so used to, but about 1:00pm the sun finally burned through and the rest of the day felt more like summer than early spring. Right now it is just gorgeous out, except for a few annoying gnats. It will be dark in an hour and I still have to go through the frustrating ritual of hanging my food bag.

Tomorrow should be a relatively easy 12 miles into Fontana Dam. I should be able to get there in early afternoon and have plenty of time to get a ride into town and collect all my packages, then retreat to a motel room where I can sort through my food and gear and figure out what I need for the next leg in the Smokies. Whatever I don't need I'll bounce* further up the trail. I still haven't decided whether I will zero in Fontana or head back out on Friday.

* Jargon Alert:
There is a subculture around hiking the Appalachian Trail, and like any subculture it has its own lingo; a handy way to tell the insiders from the outsiders. Here's a short primer in case I slip some trail lingo into my posts:

- Thru-hiker: Someone who hikes the entire trail in one year

- Section Hiker: Someone who hikes the trail in multiple shorter chunks, often over many years

- NOBO: Northbounder (like me), someone who hikes the trail from south to north

- SOBO: Southbounder

- GAME: GA to ME; same as NOBO

- MEGA: ME to GA; same as SOBO

- Zero or Zero Day: A day in which you hike zero miles; a day off. Can be a noun or a verb. "I will take a zero on Friday" or "I will zero on Friday."

- Bounce box: A box used to mail things you don;'t need right now to a town further up the trail. I have a bounce box waiting for me in Fontana Dam that has some of my warmer clothes in it, as well as the charger for my camera battery. I mailed it from Hiawassee because I knew I wouldn't need those things for this part of the hike.

Allen Freeman

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