Brian's Hike on the Appalachian Trail(4)
February 20, 2000 until ????

brianshike4 : Mar 1 to Mar 3
Mileage: 110 to 150 miles

Brian's Journal

Wednesday, March 1, 2000 ~~ 8 miles and 110.5 from SM Holy Shit!! That is all I can say to describe this place! I'm writing this beneath an old, gnarled, scraggy excuse for a tree up on top of the Siler Bald. If this little thing could talk, I bet it would tell you the history of the world. This being my first bald and all, I'm really excited and probably talking more than a little too much, but this place is too much for words!
Siler Bald
On top of Siler Bald

Basically a bald is a giant field sitting smack dab on top of a mount, and even though we're way below the tree line, besides this old thing there is nothing at all. 360 degree views at 5,216 feet. It's just a magical spot up here. The wind is blowing me all but off the face of the mountain. And all around me are foggy, smoky, mystical mountains and the valleys in between! Once again I'm on top of the world! I was too amazed even to let out a Billy Goat cry. Even if I did the wind would swallow it up before my breath left my mouth. From what I hear, these things are bit of a phenomenon.

Somebody had to have cleared this spot out, but I don't think they have any record of who. But with it being so exposed and wind beaten, I guess nothing ever had a chance to re-grow. I know I wouldn't want to be up here when bad weather hits. But this is seriously just an absolutely amazing spot! I don't really know how to describe it. But that's that, this spot is King! "First Class," as Tom would say....

.....(and later that night...) Well, I just about saw it all today. We woke up at 5:30, way before the sun, and I set off following the beam from my headlamp for only 15 minutes or so before the sun rose. It was really nice. I was traversing an eastern face, so I got the full view. First pink and orange would creep around the sides of mountains, then all of a sudden WHAM, that great big fireball was lighting the world. It was a good morning hike, about 1.5 miles up, and 1.5 miles down, following a stream as it flowed down the valley, getting bigger and bigger before reaching a river beside the road. I was at the road by 8, so Shaman, Sagebrush, and I decided to hitch into Franklin instead of waiting for the trail angel. We got a ride right away by a guy in a pick-up truck, so we hopped in.

It didn't seem that cold at the parking lot, but once we dropped into the valley we hit a wall of icy air. It ended up being a very uncomfortable ride, pretty much fighting off hypothermia. He took us to about 2 miles before Wal-Mart, so we got another hitch to the Shopping Center by a nice guy and his daughter (or young wife?).

It's a huge transition to go from the woods were you have everything you need and nothing you don't, to Wal-Mart where there's all sorts of things you think you need, but nothing you couldn't do without. It was a crazy Wal-Mart too, probably half the town worked there, so it was the only store I've ever been where there's at least twice as many employees as there are shoppers. But I did all right, got a watch, a nail clipper, some heel pads....good things to have. I passed up the slippers and chili-cheese fries though.

Anyway, I got to talk to Jaimie again, which is always nice, then got AYCE Chinese w/ Shamon and Sage. Raphael did get there--half an hour after us, so we also putzed around with him. Tom never showed up though, I'm real surprised by they. No one's seen him since he left the shelter this morning. I hitched back to the trail w/ Raphael, and started the afternoon hike around 1:30.

It was a nice climb up to Siler Bald, where I wrote the first half of this entry. I like it up there a lot. I wonder if the other balds will be as amazing. The other guys showed up, so we enjoyed the afternoon, then hiked down to the shelter for supper.
Sunset on Siler Bald
Sunset on Siler Bald
We trekked back up top for the sunset, and missed it by 30 minutes. But it was great up there. That holy feeling as the colors slip behind the mountaintops, and nights night creeps up from the other side. We all just say there in complete silence for about an hour and a half. One by one the stars would pop out. You could actually lay on your back and just see them fill-in the sky. It's funny to think that they're there all the time, even when the sun's out, and also to think that space is just black, even when our sun's lighting our world. Being on that wind battered mountain, surrounded by huge mountains and wilderness forests, and then looking up at the huge sky really reminded me how small I am, and how tiny all our worldly existence is.

To the west of us there wasn't one single light on the whole horizon. Then on the east were all the lights from Franklin and the Wal-Mart shopping center, which is such a bumble, road-bump waste of a town, but even it wants to be seen from a mountain. So everyone stays up late in lit houses to watch TV and enjoy fictional relationships and learn what they should want out of life. I just think that if more people got up on Silers Bald to watch the transition from day to night, the world would be a better place. I bet only 5% of the people we saw in Franklin have ever done more than drive past the trailhead. But what is there to do? Anyway, I at least enjoyed the sunset. And for that matter, the sunrise as well. I really did see it all today---night to morning to ugliness to beauty to evening to dusk to night. And I love it.

It is a funny feeling to be dropped off at the side of the road, after being picked up in a "civilized" place like a shopping center, and saying, "Ah, home at last." But the trail does feel like home now. When Mr. Poteat dropped us off on Sunday he did say, "Welcome Home," but it took till today to really feel like it is. And I'm glad it does. OK Goodnight, I got a tough day tomorrow. No worries. BG


Thursday March 2, 2000 ~~18.4 miles and 128.4 from SM Did my longest day so far today, and I feel great. My feet have been letting me know they're there, so I got some insoles @ Wal-Mart, and today I didn't tie my laces as tight. Between the two of those, something made a huge difference. So let me think...I woke up late this morning, and didn't get on the trail till 9:30 or so. It was a nice morning walk down from Siler and up Wayah Bald. A Forest Service road led right up to it; there was a beautiful outhouse and a garbage disposal waiting for me, both of which made my day even better. I took a long break at the observation deck and saw smoke bellowing up from what must be Winding Stair Gap. Some woman came by to listen for warbler's with a fancy headset/antenna combo, and had said that she hadn't heard any mention of a fire on her radio (she worked for the F.S.), and that she would call it in when she got to her Ranger Station. I'm glad it's not in front of me. I'd hate to get caught up in a mess like Rusty and Laura had last year.

Anyway, from Wayah, the trail meandered over a ridge, then down into a valley. Then back up to another ridge. I got to Cold Spring Shelter around 2, and decided to head down here so I could get an optometrist tomorrow before the weekend. Wesser Bald wasn't much of a bald, it must need Rogaine or something, but the view from the fire tower was phenomenal. I could see all the way to the Smokies around 30 miles away. Fontana Lake was there too, and the next couple of days go over some pretty rugged terrain. I'm really looking forward to the Smokies.

I say my first group of spring breakers on Wessar, and had a good visit with them and their dogs. It's funny to be a celebrity for hiking again, after spending so much time with people doing the same thing. I've forgotten how crazy a thru-hike sounds to a non-hiker. I got into the shelter around 5 and met Elementary Man. He's an older guy, probably 65 or so, but he's been going really slowly since he has a problem with lactic acid building up in his right-thigh. Nice enough guy though, says this is the first night he's shared a shelter in 4 nights now. He saw Tom yesterday, and somehow Tom beat us to/from Franklin and was back on the trail early enough to do a 20+ miler from Winding Stair Gap to this shelter. Good to know he's all right, but a little said that he's off and running.

Anyway, hostel tomorrow at the NOC with mail drop, mail, shower, phone, laundry, and optometrist (I hope, my glasses are getting crazy.) I tried to eat all my food tonight, so for the first time on the trail, I feel uncomfortably full. I hope my body hasn't gotten too accustomed to my super-light pack, or else it won't forgive me when I leave the NOC with 10+ pounds of food. Oh well....

I'll probably mail some stuff home as well. O year, forgot to say. I got on a blazed-side trail, thinking I was headed towards water tonight. I got about a mile down, then said, "This can't be right!!" And headed back up, grubbing some water from weeping moss covered rocks. Best water yet. So if those 2 miles count, this was my first 20 miler. I don't think they do though. Oh well. Elementary man has been snoring for half an hour, and I think I'll join him, it is 7:35 after all!! Good night, sleep tight, and don't let the mice bite----no worries. BG

Friday, March 3, 2000 ~~6 miles and 133 from SM Woke up, hiked down here, wasted a day. That's about it. NOC is primarily a "paddlin" center, so there's a lot of asshole kayakers and mountain bikers. Really makes me appreciate the quality personalities of most thru-hikers. I'm writing this over my second dinner: Mac-n-cheese. Nothing but the finest! I had an amazing burger and salad for lunch. I almost forgot how good food can be. I was going to spend another day here, but I'm ready to move on. Got my MD (mail drop) got some lunch fixings, talked to the folks, wrote some postcards, not much else to do. Nate (or Sage, whatever his name is) started feeling his knee again coming down from Silers Bald, so he hitched ahead to Fontana. But Brian (Shamon) and Raphael are with me tonight in the bunkhouse. Some lonely, sketchy guy whose been living out of his truck, working for restaurants/river work drove us to Bryson City tonight. (Not much of a city, about the size of Califon.) And we got a good hitch back with a nice older man. The next two days are supposed kick my ass, but we'll see how that goes. My feet are feeling great right now. It was along down to get here, so I'm dreading the long hike up tomorrow morning. Anyway, all is good, Clean body, clean clothes...just got to get Jaimie on the phone and all will be good. Ok---no worries. BG

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