Miles Today: 15.2
Mile Marker: 137 Nantahala Outdoor Center
My intent this morning was to go about 12 or 13 miles to stay on schedule. I followed Scooby out and drafted off him to set the pace. Then we connected with Old E and had a very enjoyable hike out with some great conversation. The day goes faster when you've got cool people to talk to. About halfway through the day we decided to make it to the NOC to avoid a bit of rain tonight.
I hit a wall around 12 miles, so pushing to 15 is still a challenge for me. Today's hiking was even worse. The first third was snow and ice sheets, the second third was a miserable slush, and the final third was slippery mud. There were sections of the trail that were downright dangerous. I slipped and fell for the first time today. Thankfully my legs slid out from under me instead of pitching forward. Just a little muddy and annoyed, but hey it was going to happen at some point.
Much of the trail was scorched from the arson last year. One section had all of the retaining longs burned through. Erosion control is a very important aspect of maintaining the trail. When you lose much of the forest floor, your supports, and there is large amounts of precipitation; things start to slide away. Muddy hiking is annoying, but it is hard not to be angry when you know it is much worse because someone intentionally tried to burn everything down. The forest is already recovering. The army of volunteers who maintain the AT will be out in April making repairs. Things will get better.
After lunch Scooby burned up the trail. A few hours later I got separated from Old E after a particularly precious downhill section. I had 3.8 miles left. It was time for the tunes. I usually doing listen to music when I hike, but I knew at some point I would need extra motivation to get down the trail. Today was that day. When you can't improve your conditions, improve your mental state.
I caught up to the guys after what felt like forever, and we grabbed a nice meal while we discussed our options. Scooby’s friend Moonshine showed up to join us. He's grounded for the next couple of days while he works out gear and deals with some injuries. After realizing we weren't going to find a spot inside for the night and were discussing stealth camping, he came to the rescue. He let each of us stay in the cabin he rented to recover for a deep discount for the night. His cabin has laundry and a hot tub. Absolute savior of the day. I was fried after today. Physically, mentally, and somewhat emotionally for some reason.
Having a warm, dry spot to land made all the difference in the world. The owner wasn't anticipating transporting four people, so we had to smash into the back seat with all of our gear. He also brought us a bit of moonshine later that night. Turned into an excellent St Patty’s, even though none of us knew it was today.