My posts are out of order here – sorry about that. This one covers the day before I started the Smokies…
Things were moving slowly at the Sassafras Gap Shelter on Friday morning. Pig Pen and I were the only ones starting to pack up by 8:00. I needed to wait until the shelter cleared out a bit to look for my phone so I got my gear packed up and had some extra breakfast of a Pemmican bar (my usual breakfast) and Pop Tarts (a bonus that I had purchased at Aquone). After a while Piddlin’, who had slept next to Pig Pen said, “Walker, is your phone black and in a Ziploc?” I thanked him profusely for finding it! Now that I had everything I was ready to hit the trail.
The ice had melted overnight at Sassafras Gap but as I climbed higher the ice was back on the trees. I was able to make good time, though, and when I got to Stecoah Gap I caught up to Pig Pen who was talking to a man who was waiting for some section hikers. I realized that I could make it to Fontana by dinner time so I called The Hike Inn, where I had a reservation for Saturday night, to see if they had a room available Friday night. Nancy, co/owner of The Hike Inn with her husband Jeff, said that Jeff could pick me up at Yellow Creek Mountain Road at 3:30.
So I hustled toward the rendezvous point and caught up to Pig Pen who had stopped to talk to some southbound hikers. He was in a hurry to get to Fontana and I needed to hurry too so we kept a blistering pace for the next two hours. We got to Yellow Creek Mountain Road at 2:30 so I set out some things to dry in the sun and Pig Pen took off for Fontana.
Jeff arrived at 3:15 so I gathered my gear and hopped into his car. At the Hike Inn Nancy took my dirty clothes to wash them and I took a shower and took out all my gear to inspect it.
At 5:00 Nancy brought me my laundry and said that the shuttle to Robbinsville, the closest town, would leave in a few minutes. So I got dressed and joined the other hiker-guests in the car to go to the Mexican restaurant and the Ingles grocery store in Robbinsville. I ate a Mexican dinner with Clark Kent and Wander Woman – it wasn’t nearly as good as Don Tequila in Lexington and to make matters worse Robbinsville is in the only dry county in North Carolina, so no margarita!
The Hike Inn is a nice little ’50’s style motel (imagine The Bates Motel) and my room was clean and just what I needed to relax and get a good night’s sleep.
Jeff stopped by to invite me to the porch for the Smokies brief. He had a lot of good info about park regulations, bears, wild boars, lightening, and other important topics for thru-hikers. He finished up, answered our questions and we went off to bed.
Tomorrow the Smokies!