Miles today: 27.3
Miles total: 2048.6
Miles total: 2048.6
Currently sitting in the common area's kitchen...
Late start today! I decided that I didn't really care how far I got today and that I would join Mercury and Danko for a farewell breakfast. Those two have plans to finish on the 9th, which will put their average pace at a leisurely 16.5 miles per day. I'm not tied to a date yet, so I'm going to let my antsy self keep boogying on down the trail. By the time I had said goodbye and was on the road, it was almost 9:30. I had originally thought I might make it to the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) tonight, but I put that idea to bed. Unwilling to rely on a hitch, I walked the two road miles to the trail. The first bit was a climb out of the gap. The pressure on my right big toe was pretty severe today, so I took a break to finally give myself that pedicure. I cut the dead part of the nail off, which was basically the whole thing. It had started behaving like a foreign body and was decimating my cuticle. With my nail looking disgusting but fabulous, I turned back up the trail. I had solved the problem, so today's hike went much more smoothly than I had expected. I traversed the ups and downs, of which there were many, with gusto. I stopped at Brown Fork Gap Shelter to have lunch and pulled my phone out of my bag. Service! I decided that if the NOC could accommodate my arriving late, I would consider pushing on tonight. I made the call, and it came down to me having to make a reservation (read: pay for my stay ahead of time) in order to arrive after 6. I hesitated, then went for it. Walking out of the shelter, I realized what I had done. I wouldn't get there until 8, even if I didn't stop. There wasn't a deadline other than the setting sun, but it just seemed so late.
I started to hustle, big time. I ran into a couple of section hikers who were, of course, chatty, then I rocketed off. I was impressed by my pace even as I made the climb up to Cheoah Bald, which was alright as balds go. I took a picture but hurried on to conserve daylight. After Cheoah, it was almost all downhill to the NOC. I tried to hurry within reason, not wanting to risk injury just to save two minutes. I finally had to give in and strap on my headlight, which I didn't want to do because that meant opening up my bag. The silver lining to this ordeal was that I got to root around in my food bag, retrieving an apple fritter thing I had bought in Fontana. Yummy. I soon heard the whoosh of the Nantahala River and saw the twinkle of the lights from the NOC, allowing me to breath a sigh of relief. I was there! I grabbed my check-in packet and slogged back across the bridge to my bunkhouse. I wish I had gotten here during the day; it looks like a really cool place. I still have to do laundry and resupply in the morning, so I'll get to check it out in more detail. I will report findings on the other side.
Picture: Cheoah Bald overlooking the Nantahala Gorge.