Today was brutal. We went up 900 feet in elevation from Tellico Gap to Wesser Bald, which had an observation tower and gorgeous views. Then we went down 3000 feet to the Nantahala Outdoor Center. Despite the elevation loss however, the trail frequently went up. That’s a nice change for my legs but it means I have to go down the same distance a second time. I had tried to wrap my knee with an ace bandage but it kept sliding down and making it hurt worse so I took it off. At this point my knee is generally fine while I’m hiking (discounting today’s freakish elevation changes) but then it hurts when I rest it. Today my feet were super sore though. I was praying to see the shelter around every curve because that meant only 1 more mile to the NOC. I finally saw it and stopped to have my leftover slice of pizza before moving on.

Coming down into the NOC was very warm and flowers were blooming at the bottom. I haven’t been at that low elevation in a while. It reminded me of Blood Mountain when Bulldog said “Fifty feet from the top and a half a mile away.” That goes for gaps too. You can hear them, you can see them, and yet they take forever to get to. All I wanted was a milkshake but the restaurant didn’t have any. I ran over to the general store and got a pint of ice cream and a bag of jelly beans to add to my lunch. I sat around catching up with some other hikers while eating, then moved to lay by the water watching kayakers with my shoes off and feet up, which made them feel immensely better.

Unfortunately the shoes had to go back on and we finally moved on after a very long break. We went back up about 2800 feet. We had originally planned on going to the shelter 3000 feet up but decided to camp halfway up after the beating our feet took on the way down. But the campsite we wanted had no water like the guide said it did so we had to keep moving. We came across a spring a while later to resupply on water but there were no flat spots to tent so we planned on getting to the campsites at Swim Bald. Almost to the top, we came across PaddyMan and Brandon and Kristen camped out so we stopped there at 6:30 after around 13.3 miles.

Right now I’m in my tent and it sounds like sleet or something is hitting it but I can’t see anything. I thought it would be clear tonight so I hope it ends soon.

Happy birthday, Grandpa!