If variety is the spice of life, NC is extra spicy!
But first, let me back up.
We were still in Georgia the last time I had signal to post. After the cold and rainy day we’d spent ascending and descending Blue Mountain, we welcomed the sunshine and 70 degree weather of Day 6 with open arms! I broke out the shorts and sunscreen (Snapshot always encourages the use of sunscreen), and we enjoyed our 11+ mile day to the fullest. We found a great crowd at our destination campsite that night, and almost everyone slept with at least one vestibule open. The sunset was glorious, and it was even better shared with a new trail friend named Maugie!
Day 7 rolled in with an even better sunrise followed by a butt-kicking climb over Kelly Knob. Maugie, whose heels had been rubbed raw by her shoes, opted to hike in her injinjis and pink flip flops, earning her the trail name Pink Flops. We all hiked hard because we were on our way to a nero in Hiawassee. I shared a shuttle into town with 4 other people plus the driver and our backpacks. We stayed at the slightly less sketchy Holiday Inn Express in town, and after a 30 minute shower which involved multiple rounds of hair washing, we grabbed lunch at the Tilted Cafe (10/10 recommend) and resupplied at Ingles. It thunder stormed overnight, but we were warm and dry in our hotel.
Day 8 started with the full intention of doing a nero at Plum Orchard Shelter. We caught our first hitch out to the trailhead with a local gentleman with a pickup truck. Snapshot was waiting for us at the trailhead, and with the sun above and town pep in our step, we started our climb (uphill, of course!). By the time we reached the shelter, we had decided that today would be our day to break for the border. So we did. Georgia did not let us go easily, though. The last few miles were full of steep up and down hills. I felt like a little kid, repeatedly asking, “Are we there yet?” And suddenly, there it was. THE TREE. We celebrated by sharing the worst and best of Georgia before stepping over the border and into my home state of North Carolina. I had walked home.
Welcome to the Obstacle Course!
Well, NC knows how to roll out a welcome mat. It’s called Sharp Top and Sassafrass Mountain. It’s two nearly vertical climbs just after the border. Thankfully, the weather was cool and the views were good, but wow! What a climb! The first shelter we came across in the state (Muskrat Creek) welcomed us in with a misspelt sign that gave us all a much needed laugh. After snack #1,457 of the morning, we descended. Our descent involved tucking, rolling, jumping, ducking, and limbo-ing our way over, under, and through many blowdowns. We were in the obstacle course. In Deep Gap, we met none other than 32 Feet Up, a family of 16 hiking the AT together! We then conquered Standing Indian Mountain and were rewarded with excellent views.
I’ve noticed a pattern in the way our tramily hikes: make a plan for short mileage and completely blow it out of the water by the end of the day. That’s how Day 10 started. We’ll just do a short day and end it before the Albert Mountain climb. But with the Albert Mountain Fire Tower looming overhead, we chugged some water, ate some snacks, and tackled the rocks, stairs, and ladder to reach the first major mileage milestone of our trip: the 100 mile mark. It was a momentous occasion for us, and Mountain Crusher summed it up perfectly with a rebel yell from atop the fire tower. Even the sloped and rooty tent sites at Long Branch Shelter couldn’t really spoil our triumph. And to top it all off, the sunset was again, gorgeous!
The Pizza is Calling, and I Must Go!
Days 11 and 12 involved food…a lot of food. We crushed 7.2 miles in 3 hours the morning of Day 11. Pizza was on the brain, and nothing was going to stop us from getting into Franklin, NC! It was a truly magical day. Three time thru hiker and repeat LASHer Solace gave us a free shuttle into town, complete with hilarious stories, free food, and a tour. The local Dominos gave us free sodas (we bought a pizza each), and a trail angel pre-paid for our coffee and baked goods at the local bakery. After rooting through the hiker box at the Hilltop Inn and grabbing a few items (yes – we are hiker trash and proud of it!), we were able to celebrate with Mimsi and her tramily on her 65th birthday! We went to bed with full stomachs and fuller hearts.
A Much Needed Zero
Day 12 was our first zero since getting on trail. The First Baptist Church van picked us up first thing and whisked us away for a free AYCE pancake breakfast for thru hikers. We stopped for second breakfast on our way to resupply before Mountain Crusher and I left Lucky and Snapshot at the Inn and checked into Chica and Sunsets’ Hostel. Staying at this hostel was one of my few AT thru hike dreams, and it was a lovely stay! My husband is coming tonight to eat dinner with us and trade gear with me. I can’t wait for snuggles from my dog too. Tomorrow, we return to the trail, but today, we enjoy a much needed rest!
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek’s ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.