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[at-l] Section 1D Reporting

T Minus 1 Day High Noon Thursday, August 31 00 --

Got outta Dodge as fast as I could and made for the hills. Cached water part way up Wayah Bald. Drove to NOC. Parked. Took pack and sign reading "Standing Indian - Rock Gap" in an ill fated effort to hitch a ride there. Gave up at dark, and started walking back to NOC, figuring on an all night hike. Learned my new boots were not for real hiking that evening. Picked up by a landscaping crew who drove me back to NOC, ariving around 9:30. Got in my car and drove back to Rock Gap, watching Scorpio rising above the mountains most of the way. Also noticed possum, rabbit, and a fawn (obviously lost and I nearly hit to poor creature!). Too tire to set up, I slept in my car that night.  A bear visited the trash bins which aren't bear proofed at Rock Gap.
Day #1 High Noon Sept 1 00
The next morning various people, including week-end hikers showed up. An elderly family showed up waiting for a neice and her boy friend to who planned to hike SoBo the same section. They showed up and left within half an hour. I thought we'd meet around Burningtown Gap.  The forest service garbage collectors showed up and with a lot of swearing noticed a bear had visited their garbage bins.  Left alone, I just waited for my hand shake with Uncle Milt. Around 11:40 I started wondering how long I should wait for him. 5 minutes later he drives up and I beg him for a shuttle on Monday, since I have none. He's happy to do the favor. After pics and the hand shake I'm off NoBo. 
It's a nice little walk from rock Gap where I meet a Franklin day hiker Wayne Haire, wearing a yellow ribbon. We talk hiking a bit and I ask about the yellow ribbon. There's a memorial for vietnam vets and their comrades who did not make it home that week-end in Franklin. A vet himself, he'd attended it before his day hike began. We exchanged names because we both want to hike Fontana south to NOC before the years out.
I'm glad to make it to Winding Stair (2:00pm) where I replenish my water supply (not filtered). Two guys get dropped off there, heading in my direction, Jay and Thad, both from Franklin, new fathers, and one is out for his first hike. They take off like the young kids they are and I figure I won't see them again. And I start my climb up to Siler's Bald shelter. I've done this hike once before. Proustian memories. I hike slowly up hill. It's a new hike, at a different time of year, and the trail seems different, despite the memories. I don't remember that rock outcropping or this particular laurel tunnel. I think about my daughters and wish at least one of them had joined me on the hike. Hiking alone requires a different sort of motivation and a different frame of mind, than hiking with someone else. But I enjoy the solitude. Can't remember if it's Panther Gap or Swinging Lick (what a name! -- I wonder about the sexual implications to that one!), but I run into Thad and Jay. Jay's having pack problems. I keep hiking. They pass me close to the blue blaze to the shelter and pass me.  I hear them arrive in camp ahead of me. The older couple Wayne told me about is alread there, along with a guy from Florida who's definite his Sweetwater Filter will keep working because he brought the brush along. I'd just finished showing him my prefilter and what "clear" water does to it.  Oh well. May his filter always stay clear, even without a pre-filter. I recall the shelter. No place to hang my hammock and my tarp. I walk up into the woods and find a place. Set up shelter, hammock, and bear bag line for later before dark and take my food down to the bottom to cook with Thad and Jay. I make lamb curry and couscous and share my port, while a nice fire burns and it starts getting dark. Clouds are threatening and it drizzles a bit when we're done. On my way up the hill I hand the food and I'm thinking about sleep and the extra space in my hammock.
After dark three more guys show up and my moving around in my hammock and sleeping bag gives them the creeps until I call out if they need any help ... and they answer back: "Thanks, that was all I help I needed!" This shelter has no bear poles and no latrine, but it has a nice piped spring. I don't filter.
Day #2 Sept 2: I wake up to see the older couple leaving ... they'd driven down from Michigan for the hike this week-end. The night was wet. They talked about this acorn that hit the roof during the night. I could see the roof. I told them it was no acorn. The florida guy with the clear filter says it was an acorn. I suggest he look at the roof and he declines, moving out for his hike. It was a large oak branch that woke me and everyone up that night. The older couple leaves, then Thad and Jay; and then the three guys who arrived after dark. I'm last to leave ... around 10:30 am. I get to Wayah Gap/Crest @ 11:15.
On my way out I miss a turn and walk down this freshly mowed road, passing all but the elderly couple and Mr. Clean Filter. Thad and Jay are now behind me and I don't know it. So's Dad and Son, Dave and David, and their friend Jason ... the three guys that arrived after dark. Jason is a paddler; David (Son) is a peddler (cross country and mountain biking). I know this hike. From Wayah Crest and Gap I remember it all. It's different this time without the sun beating down. I have a gallon of water to carry up with me, this time, though. I make it to FS69 (1:15pm) and Dave, David and Jason speed on by ... there's no water in spring there and they stop to put plastic bags over their packs. I keep hking. After 0.75 mile or so, Thad and Jay pass me, Jay still having trouble with his pack.  Sobo a little while later there's a group day hiking. A Multi-Club get together in one of the nearby campgrounds out day hiking. They warn of hornets or yellow jackets just beneath the tower.  3 in their group were stung more than once. I didn't notice them. I make for the Tower (2:15pm) and hear Thad and Jay, Jason, Dave and David approaching and they join me at the top of the tower for a snack and the wind which gives us chill. Clouds prevent a view, but I feel like I'm drying out, despite the chill. I contemplate breaking the rules and camping on the tower in hopes that the wind will dry me and my clothes out, despite the cold. Instead, I move on, thinking that making my planned stop, below Wayah, makes better sense. (3:00pm) I talk about going further, too; but when I get there it's raining again and I decide that since it was a planned stop it would be ok to stop and make shelter from the rain. Thad and Jay arrive next and set up their camp. Dave, David, and Jason, low on water, keep hiking for the next water source, unable to find any water down the Bartram where there's supposed to be some.  I don't hang a bear bag this time ... just a little bag to keep the mice away from my pack.
I have supper, lamb curry and couscous again, washed down with port. And I fall asleep, feeling good. I'm on schedule. The next day is the longest hike of the week-end and I want an early start. But a mouse going through my pack wakes me up and I realize I forgot to hang the cheese and sausage. I fix that, the mouse visits once more to discover it's gone and leave me alone the rest of the night. I see stars at night, but not enough of them to orient myself.  I'm just happy the stars are back tho. I sleep soundly.
Day #3.  I'm up and fixing breakfast when I see Thad and Jay stumble out of their tent. We chat a bit. They're thinking of bailing. Jay's borrowed pack is draining all the fun out of the hike for him and Thad doesn't want him to have bad memories. They're tring to decide about going to Burningtown or back up to Wayah and decide that heading back to Wayah would be better. I need to make Wesser Bald Shelter this evening and leave them at around 8:40 am. Around 9:40 I pass the neice and her boyfriend going SoBo ... they were making excellent time, especially considering the climb they's faced out of the NOC. I keep on hiking off Wayah, wanting to make Cold Spring Shelter for lunch. I'm approaching Burning Town Gap and I see this young woman headed up without a pack SoBo. She's looking around in the woods and back to the Gap, but she's not looking up the trail. I figured I was making plenty of noise, but I discerned she hadn't notice me and hollered out Good Day before she dropped her pants to pee. I think she learned a lesson of sorts about observation. I stumble out into the clearing and there's this big jeep cherokee with a trailer loaded with canoes. I ask if they're looking for water up here. They say, no, we just camped here and we're going down the Nantahala river later today. They're leaving. A woman is driving the Cherokee and trailer and needs to turn it around. This guy is barking orders about how to do this maneuver and she barks back her own idea which from my vantage point was clearly smarter ... So I say to the guy, She's got the better idea and leave it at that. Mission accomplished I get this wonderful smile from her as she leaves. She gives me the time 10:40 ... no, I mean 11:40, I forgot the time change, we're still on Tennessee time!" another smile and she's off. followed by a beamer loaded with young kids. I stop for lunch short of the climb to Cold Springs. Packing up, I forgot I'd just turned off the stove and grabbed it, in honor of the place I guess, leaving Burning Town with Burning Fingers.
 crowd day hiking from yesterday appears going my direction. They want to make Tellico by 3 or 3:30 pm. I want to make it by 3 or 4. The climb up to Cold Springs was the worst climb I've ever hiked ... worse than Albert ... I'm constantly out of breath. I can' figure this out. I moving much slower than the last two days and I'm gasping for breath. Beyond cold springs where 18 day hikers are spread around eating lunch, I figure out that I've got the pack too low on my hips. A minor adjustment and I have all my lung capacity back again. The 18 day hikers pass me on the way down to Tellico and they are gone by the time I arrive, at 2:50 pm. But I'm bushed. 
I throw down my pack and poles and take a drink. I'm running low on water and I have a mile up before the trail levels out and heads down to Wesser Bald shelter. An SUV with two women heads towards Franklin ... then they head back again. and this time I try to yogi some water. They stop and ask directions and I tell them they were going in the right direction for Franklin so they give me ice water and turn around and go back down the hill. 
I'm sipping heaven for a few minutes. That ice is delicious. I hear something in bushes behind me. I turn my head over my right shoulder. I see these rattles making a noise with which I am at once not familiar and familiar. I know instantly, tho' it's the first time in the wild I've run into a rattler. I get up and survey the length somewhere between 5 and 6 feet long and very big around. We stare at each other, both of curious. I approach my back back thinking a picture would be nice if only I could get my camera. He rattles again. I back off and lob stones at him ... a good thing I was bushed and couldn't throw straight. I missed every time but he got the message and moved off. I turn to see a humming bird inspecting the red color on my REI hiking poles and I follow it for 5 minutes while the sun comes out and warms my wet shirt and soaked ex officios. I lose sight of the humming bird and before I'm ready to move on a couple comes out. He's wearing a K2 pack, too, and wants to show his wife the view from the tower. He's also trying to get in shape to break 20,000 ft on a peak in Equador next year. I didn't get his name, but he carried his K2 up the road to the tower. 
After they've gone, I set out up the hill ... it's a lot further than 500 yards ... its more like a mile or so up to the tower. But I make the climb ok. I round a ridge and smell tobbaco. I look up and there's a camper. He answers he has plenty of water. on the other side of the ridge I discover he carrying at starbucks stainless tumbler, little tampa cigars, an electric blanket, and this wheel thingy we use carry large boxes of files to court. he tells me he's out hiking for the first time in 20 years, he loves this spot, and he's interested in knowing about the spring a mile or so ahead of him, but he'll stay right where he is. He used to be a day trader until this Argentine bank went belly up. Now he services printers. I wish him luck and move on. I'm too tired to do the tower. I move on along the trail. I want to make Wesser Shelter and I finally pull in there around 5:30 pm, bushed. The elderly couple are there, tenting. Mr. Clean Filter, aka acorn, is far ahead, they say. They made it to Lick Log and stayed with neice and boy friend there. Dave, David, and Jason had kept going looking for water and they didn't know where they'd stopped, but told me they were expecting me at Wesser. So I moved on down the hill to the Wesser Shelter and asked if there was room on the floor for me. They were bushed, walking around really tired, getting some laughs chasing a resident mouse. I went for water. No filter again. Brought it back and had some liptons curried rice for supper.and some chocolate milk and colapsed for a long night of sleep, planning to wake up as early as possible for the hike to NOC. By dark everyone was feeling rested and decided to go mice chasing again. We got up and made green tea, traded various animal stories for a while and then fell asleep.

Day #4 ... Labor Day:

Around 4 Dave (David's Dad) was up chasing the mouse again. I didn't go to sleep after that. I got up and fixed breakfast and packed, and lay back down waiting for sufficient light to start hiking. I cleared out around 7 am  saying good bye to everyone ... I didn't want to be late for my handshake.

Dave, David, and Jason finished to few miles to NOC a bit before me. I was worried about my water situation. Jason saw a bear when he rounded the ridge to the Rufus Morgan Shelter. I didn't visit the shelter and kept on hiking. I decided not to stop for water there, too. I was happy to hear cars on the Lost Mine Road and even happier when I saw a trailer of red canoes down at the NOC. I stopped at one of the last bridges, sat down and finished off all my water before moving on to the NOC. 

I put my HATT hat on the AT sign on the post of the foot bridge, facing north, and went to cool off and change into dry clothes.  On the way across the bridge I met Uncle Milt ... not my handshake ... but an incredibly happy sight as he was my ride back to my car!  A paragon of patience ... he had to be in Atlanta to pick up his son at the air port, he waited while I unwound and cooled off fromt he hike and got something to eat. All the while we kept looking for my handshake at the Nantahala river. A young couple came Sobo over the river and I asked them and they said they'd seen no one with the hatt hat and they'd hiked from Fontana. I took some pics in the middle of the foot bridge and and jumped into Uncle Milt's jeep for the ride back to Rock Gap.

There we said our good byes and headed out. My car stopped running right after Wallace Gap, and after he'd returned to give me my hiking poles I'd forgotten in his jeep. I waved him on and coasted to Rainbow Springs.
What was wrong?  Some kind soul there tried his best to figure it out and said it was probably electronic or in the computer.  After messing with it a bit, I started it again and it kept running as if nothing had happened. Got back to Atlanta around 6 pm ... sorry to have missed my hand shake and happier than I've been in a long time with a mahvelous hike and new friends ... Thanks for letting me join in the HATT hike!

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