11-5-09 day 156
start: Brown Fork Gap Shelter, NC
end: Bridge @ Nantahala Outdoor Center, NC
daily mileage: 16.0
total mileage: 2043.3
We've both begun experiencing some frustration at having to hike with so many leaves on the trail. The trail is often cut into the ground, and acts as a natural leaf-collector. Leaves are frequently up to the tops of our shoes, and the many layers of leaves are very slippery. It makes walking much harder when one's steps result in slipping backwards as much as they result in pushing one forward. Uphill is very much harder, and downhill feels like you're going to die. But it was a pretty uneventful hiking day. The trees are now almost totally bare so you can see much farther in every direction in the woods, but our hiking is so noisy because of the leaves that it's hard to imagine seeing many more bears.
We'd planned on getting to the NOC for a resupply and then hiking the 1 mile out from there to the shelter, and all was going according to plan. We arrived at this little outdoor center around 4:30, and approached the general store. But what is this? Closed for the winter! This is something that really should have been mentioned in the companion.
Fortunately, we run into a kindly guy who says he'd be happy to drive us 15 miles into the nearest town (Bryson City) so we can get some food, and then he'd even drive us back! This guy really saved our butts: it can be quite difficult to get a ride back from a big town to the little middle-of-nowhere places that the trail goes through. This guy's name was Jerry, but he went by Honest Abe. He was incredibly talkative, and about somewhat strange things... by the end of our adventure, he'd mentioned that he was telekinetic and could use a dousing rod. But whatever, he was a great guy. We grabbed some Arby's on the way back to town (it's now 5 for $6.95??? What's happened to the world since we've been gone?!?) and he dropped us off back at the NOC.
It was of course dark by now, but we were still going to walk the 0.9 miles to the shelter when Sea Monster suggested "adventure sleeping" somewhere in the middle of the outdoor center, and then just getting out of there before they opened up the next morning. I agreed, and suggested that if we were going to adventure sleep, we might as well do it in style... right in the middle of the Nantahala River, on the footbridge that is technically the AT. This was one of the more conspicuous places to cowboy camp, but the stars were gorgeous and it was the place with the least tree-cover where we could enjoy them most. And we figured we would probably not get arrested just for sleeping in the middle of a busy footbridge on someone's private property, just kicked off. Most likely.
The stars were really awesome - the Milky Way was crystal clear and we saw several shooting stars. Another lovely night on the AT.