Carey Kish is currently thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, a distance of 2,200 miles over a period of 5-6 months. Entries from Carey’s trail journal are presented here. You can also follow his journey on Facebook.
April 3, 2015: NOC to Locust Cove Gap, 10.3 miles, 10:45am to 5:15pm.
NOC is located right on the Nantahala River at about 1750 feet. My objective for the day at the very least was to get to Cheoah Bald at almost 5100 feet and some eight miles north. The math was easy. Between me and Cheoah was well over 3000 feet of climbing. Yikes. A big day that I was having a hard time getting psyched up for. Perhaps I would dry camp on the Cheoah summit if the weather looked decent. Otherwise I’d make for Locust Cove and its spring, a couple of three miles beyond.
The NOC bunkhouse was spartan but worked. Comfy mattress, light, fan (used it) and heater (not needed). Up the hill was the shower house. Up shortly before 8, sorted through some gear and packed a bit, then sauntered down to the complex on the river, heading straight for the River’s Edge Restaurant. Excellent breaky of eggs, home fries and biscuit, all washed down with two huge cups of good coffee.
Next to the Outfitter Store to check on my package situation. Told the guy behind the counter what I was looking for, he asked my name, and then with a smile grabbed the Express Mail package sitting right there in front of him and handed it to me. It happened so fast it took a moment to realize that my worry was over. Howard told me the package had just come in and he hadn’t even had time to log it into his book. Wow. So I had my bivy bag for the Smokies. Yeah!
Back to the bunkhouse to sort through the resupply box from yesterday. Then up to take another shower. Why not, it’s here. It was 10:30 by the time I finally left the bunk room. Dropped my unwanted extras in the hiker box in the store, called my lovely wife Fran, and grabbed a Gatorade from the general store.
Love this place. Has changed quite a lot over the years, much bigger, sprawling actually. It has everything a hiker could want right in one central place. Love it. Next time through I’ll plan on a day off here. And perhaps a rafting trip.
Shouldered the beast and headed uphill on the trail. Switchback and switchback, it was a long late morning of climbing. Hot at first, but a good breeze kicked in and kept the heat at bay. One hour, then two hours of steady up. Took a long time to lose sight of the river.
Three hours and still up. Felt pretty good all in all. But then a half-mile or so of rough rocky footing slowed me down. Soon after my legs turned to cement. And I struggled to push myself up the trail, especially when the grade steepened. The tank was out of gas. I needed food and a break.
Pretty spent, I finally topped out on Swim Bald at 4700 feet and stepped right into quite a party. A party of biting gnats and flies that is. I tried to sit on a log and eat my tuna, cheese and crackers, but was so assaulted I ended up circling around the wooded summit whole stuffing lunch in my face. No rest for the weary. Must have looked pretty funny me getting chased around by the hordes of little nasties.
Ten minutes perhaps and I was ready to leave the party. Easy ridge walking (thank goodness), then down to Sassafras Gap. If I was going to camp on top of Cheoah Bald I’d need to get water here. The shelter was a few hundreds downhill off the trail and so was the spring. I declined and knot moving.
Feeling better now I made good time to the top of Cheoah, but not without my share of grunts from the exertion. Tough day for sure. Two women hikers doing a section of the Bartram Trail (it’s northern terminus is right here) were setting up their tent on the premier campsite overlooking the large open slope that ran down from the summit to the south. Grand views all the way back to Wesser Bald, Wayah Bald and Siler Bald. Nice nice nice.
Dark clouds building and wind whipping about, so I carried on. One of the best summits on the trail. Must come back and camp here. Caught the outlook to the north before heading off. Could see Fontana Lake and the entirety of the Smoky Mountains. Sweet!
Long tiring descent interspersed with a few short ups got me to Locust Gap, my home for the night. Despite the wind gusting through the gap, those damn gnats and flies were here having another big party. And they looked mighty glad to see me. Perhaps the Swim Bald bugs had called ahead.
After a trip to the spring I cooked dinner and ate as fast as possible. Then retreated to the safety of the tent. That’s where I am now at 7:45. Wind is picking up. Hope it blows the bugs to the next county.