K2 rocks the NOC

Wednesday – uh-oh, another zero for Doo! K2 took the trail to represent our team.

I shuttled him as he slack packed from the Nantahala Outdoor Center at mile 136.7 of the AT…

…to Stacoah Gap at mile 150.3. The 13.6 mile (~21.9km) hike involved an elevation gain of 2,978′ in the first six miles coming out of the NOC at the river and climbing up Swim Bald. The real high point was Cheoah Bald at 5,062′ for a total elevation gain of 3,330′ in 8.1 miles. And after all that uphill there’s still 5.5 miles left!

Wiggy said that most hikers take two days to hike out of the NOC choosing to stay at Sassafras Gap Shelter after about a 7 mile hike rather than continue over Cheoah Bald. The next shelter with tent camping is another 15.2 miles from Sassafras so choosing to call it a day after cresting Swim makes sense for thru-hikers. For slackpacking wildmen like K2 though? Hike on!

I dropped him off at about 9:30am and he called me to pick him up at 3pm. The guy can hike.

I spent my time checking out the NOC’s outfitter, putting air in one of our tires, catching up on blog posts, and nursing my knees and my blister.

The Nantahala Outdoor Center hosts whitewater sporting competitions and other events in the spring and summer. People come from all over to race and to attend their highly acclaimed paddling school too. Early March is quiet at NOC, however, the AT goes right through the complex and many hikers stay at their hostel.

For noisy knees my mom always said, “RICE: rest, ice, compression, and elevation” and for blisters…. Well, I did a lot of reading before this hike about blister care while backpacking, but I can’t say much of it has helped me. I am NOT a fan of putting Leukotape over hot spots because at the end of the hike my socks are stuck to my skin. Ouch! I will admit Desitin (yes, the diaper rash stuff) seems to dry out hot spots, which I think has help avoid additional blisters. So far my best bet has been liberal use of Gold Bond foot power. Love that stuff.

Zeros suck

When we ran into our shuttle drivers, Donald and Tyler, at the Hole in the Wall, the happening spot for breakfast in Blairsville, we asked for their input on how to spend our zeros. They recommended touring some waterfalls. We managed to squeeze in one trip to a magnificent waterfall during our busy weekend. We also packed the time with two Bruins games, dinner at the five star restaurant, Copper Door, in Hayesville, and another visit with Scotty Roo -barbecue at Wild Hog and resupply at Ingles.

Positives about the Seasons Inn motel:

  • Clean bathtub (seemed clean anyway) and plentiful hot water
  • Walking distance to the Hole in the Wall for coffee and breakfast
  • Spacious room – handy for airing out gear and getting organized
  • Laundry onsite for $3/load

Four or five times more people hike by the vicinity of Blairsville as thru-hikers than there are residents of this tiny town. From the moment I soaked the Leukotape off my feet in my first bath, the quicksand of Blairsville held me firmly. Ordinarily, after growing up in a small Vermont village, I don’t feel such a pull to root into a place like Blairsville. Yet the sedentary life seduced me during these two zeros. I can see how hikers succumb to towns and don’t get back to the trail.

I’m grateful to my dad and K2 for encouraging the broader perspective that got me relaunched.

Well, you are there now so you just have to do it well – even if it is more difficult than you thought it would be. I know you can and I love you. – Dad via text