Miles Hiked: 6.9
Miles Left: 2048
Ending Location: Natahala Outdoor Center
Well the storm came as expected and woke everyone up around midnight. No lightning but the rain on the metal roof made quite a racket. It was still drizzling in the morning so Vegemite, B, and I spent a lazy couple hours waiting for it to stop. Around 11 it had slowed to a dribble so we all put on our rain gear and headed out.
Almost the entire day consisted of “down” with us loosing over two thousand feet of elevation. Combined with the fact that the trail was covered with wet leaves and slippery roots hiking required a lot more concentration than normal. I actually liked it because it was technical but not too tiring. Also the conditions forced us to take it slow which was good since many through hikers blow out their knees on this section. B and I were both joking that the views would have been spectacular if we could see them, as we spent most of the day in a cloud with about 20 feet of visibility.
We ended the day at the Natahala Outdoor Center, (NOC), which is an amazing rec park decided to whitewater rafting. Their setup was impressive with a river they periodically dam up to add new obstacles, busses with raft racks on top, zip lines, a big store, restaurants, lodges, and bunkhouses. Unfortunately since it was the off season almost all of it was closed. It took B and I about an hour to check into the hostel, (finding the building was a challenge and the staff was a bit … disorganized. Basically imagine if your family had to fill out paperwork during Thanksgiving dinner.
Our room ended up being on top of a hill as far away from everywhere else as possible, though considering how hikers smell I can’t blame them for the placement. It also only cost 15 bucks for a bed and a shower so you get what you pay for. Side note for any other through hikers: You buy the laundry detergent from the outfitter store and NOT the general store where the washing machines are. This was an issue because the outfitter store closed early so B, Vegemite and I were the only ones able to do laundry that day since we got in early and made that a priority.
We were also very disappointed they were not renting kayaks yet since their rapid setup looked downright wicked. This may have to be one of those places I come back to visit after I finish the AT. We consoled ourselves by grabbing “lunch” at the restaurant. The food was excellent with both B and I resisting the temptation of the Mile 137 hiker burger and going with the healthy “Sherpa” option instead. Of course we then each ordered a pizza to go for dinner to balance things out. As we sat there we saw through the windows several other members of our bubble arrive and then wander around the complex like we did. They all eventually migrated to the restaurant as well so we grabbed a few drinks with the crew.
One question I’ve been asked by a couple of people is what do B and I do about food? Warning, it’s almost impossible to talk about this subject without also referring to the “out” aspect of things so this section may be TMI.
B and I both started out with the same basic menu:
Breakfast: Cliff Protein Builders Bar
1st Snack: Cliff Mojo Bar
Lunch: Regular Cliff Bar
2nd Snack: Snickers Bar
Dinner: Mountain House dehydrated meals
This provided most of the nutrition we needed but everything but dinner and the Snickers got old fast. Also it’s a bit more pricy than we’d like and will be hard to resupply throughout most of the trail where we’ll have to rely on gas stations and grocery stores. Finally, (TMI), we needed more fiber in our diet which a coworker of mine had warned me about.
In Hiawassee the outfitter store wasn’t open on Sundays so we decided to experiment with other options we saw our fellow hikers eating. Comments inline:
– Fiber One bars: Not bad but not all that filling
– Granola: Really good but we made the mistake of buying individual serving packages of it which were a real pain from a packing perspective. Of course trying to keep a whole container of granola from causing a mess is another problem… We probably need to buy a lot more ziplock bags
-Dried cranberries: Mmmm cranberries .
Cliff mojo bars: They are like candy. What’s not to like
Sweet & nutty trail mix: Very good since it takes so long to eat. I think I like the sunflower seeds the best since once all the other stuff is gone you still have a bunch of them at the bottom if the package.
Dried fruit: Very tasty but I have to remind myself to eat this in moderation to avoid digestive issues.
-Tortillas with peanut butter: a huge win. Good calories, protein, and fiber. Plus it gives me an excuse to eat peanut butter with a spoon.
-Marie Calendar’s Mac and Cheese: Total disaster on the order of the Hindenburg. Didn’t fully cook in the boiling water, tasted chemically, and about 4 hours later left us running for the outhouse yelling “Oh the humanity!” Because we were idiots we tried this twice. Adding a half of stick of butter helped the taste but not the “end” results.
-Rice Sides: Not that bad but very salty. This is one of the most popular through hiker foods since it is high calorie, filling, and cheap. The biggest problem is you have to cook it in your pot which then means you have to clean it and then throw it in your bear bag. Basically it’s a real pain.
Block O’ Cheese: This was suggested to us by the two southbounders. They recommended going through one block a day for the protein. I tried it and liked it but it had the exact opposite effect on my digestive system that I expected. I might try this in smaller portions going forward
Pepperoni slices: You can eat these whenever. The jury is still out on if I like them. Basically pepperoni in moderation is good. In large quantities it is questionable.
Going forward I’m going to try and limit my use of bars when it comes to breakfast and lunch but they are so compact and easy that I’ll still have them. I plan on using tortilla wraps for lunch and experimenting with various fillings. For dinner I’m going to try and stick with dehydrated meals whenever possible simply due to their convenience, nutrition, taste, and the fact they are warm. Yeah they are pricy but they are totally worth it. Also one of my goals is to make a fluffer nutter on the trail. I’ll probably do this when the weather gets warmer.