Day 36-38: The AT’s Highest Point is Our Lowest

Day 36: Birch Spring Gap (Mile 171.5)-Spence Field Shelter (Mile 182.5); 11 miles

The crazy hail storm had passed and a variety of birds were greeting the new day. Take a listen to a minute of what we heard:

Unfortunately North Star’s painful headache still hounded her. The dizziness she’d been experiencing for the past week intruded as well. Bending over to pack gear made her head spin, forcing her to take several sitting breaks. We were dismayed that her symptoms were not improving.

The trail followed the border between Tennessee and North Carolina, taking us past beautiful old trees. All the recent rainfall nourished the wildflowers, known as “spring beauties,” which carpeted the ground. Shutterbug enjoyed the views, but North Star’s mold headache was so powerful that it made walking very difficult for her. The pain meant she couldn’t enjoy any of the beauty around her.

We kept walking. Fog blew in, at times condensing into rain.

We reached the Spence Field shelter where we cooked up a hearty dinner of couscous and pinto bean flakes. From our tent we heard rumbles of distant thunder. Though North Star was tuckered out she had trouble sleeping because of her headache.

Day 32-35: Spring Brings Beauty and Headaches

Day 32: Nantahala Outdoor Center (Mile 137.5)-North of Simp Gap (Mile 149); 11.5 miles

The Nantahala River flows through the bottom of a deep gorge. In the morning we began a 3000 foot climb up and out of that gorge.

We passed lizards sunning themselves beside the trail.

Much of the climb was forested, but a break in the trees allowed us see the river and Nantahala Outdoor Center below. We had already gained some serious altitude.

Day 29-31: From Tower to Gorge

Day 29: Near Wayah Bald (Mile 120)-Wesser Bald (Mile 130.5); 10.5 miles

Our alarm rang extra early so we could beat the sunrise. We climbed the nearby stone tower at the top of Wayah Bald and watched the first light fall on distant peaks.

From the tower we could see Standing Indian and Deep Gap where we had been days ago. It’s always very satisfying to look back on our progress like this.

We enjoyed a relaxed morning, then began walking down off the bald. We encountered some trail workers from Natahala Hiking Club and chatted with them. Thanks for all your excellent trail work!

Farther down the trail, Boot Scoot and his friend David Bradford Donovan were providing trail magic. We had been planning to stop for lunch anyway and hungrily devoured their tasty snack packets. In addition, to North Star’s delight, they had portioned a variety of spices into small plastic bags. We looked forward to the extra kick these would add to some of our meals. David and Boot Scoot have just launched Yeti Food Outfitters which provides food and resupply logistics for hikers. They’re good guys with a cool small business.

Continuing uphill, the bright sun and temperatures in the upper 70s made for hot, sweaty climbing. We couldn’t complain, though – the warmth was most welcome!

The climb ended at the top of Wesser Bald where we found another fire tower. This tower rose above even the tallest trees.