Day 4: Tellico Gap to Nantahala Outdoor Center 6/27/2017
Backpack between Deep Gap and Winding Stair complete, Momma Puma let me know that she could not continue hike due to the knee injury she acquired climbing up Albert Mountain.
You know that sound a video game (and I am so dating myself right now), the sound right before the end, …
Insert deep foreboding voice, GAME OVER!
Anyway, that was what played in my head as Momma Puma told me this news.
Then I started planning for how I could continue the trek. I came down to NC to complete the section from Deep Gap to the Nantahala Outdoor Center, or NOC, and gosh darn it, I would find a way! Momma Puma graciously extended the offer to shuttle (thank you, thank you).
I was willing to backpack it alone, but needed more information on the trail. I sent out feelers to hiker friends in the area. Ann L. texted back, stating there wasn’t anything harder ahead than I had already encountered and no more Albert Mountain-like stuff. My hiker friend Google (remember her from my GA, MD, and PA sections?) got back to me with a sweeter offer. Stay at her cabin in Hiawassee and day hike from Winding Stair to the NOC. She had split it up into three sections that would make the shuttling easier: 1. Tellico Gap to NOC (leaving my car at Tellico Gap), Wayah Bald to Tellico Gap (pick up my car at Tellico Gap and repark at Winding Stair Gap), then the last section would be Wayah Bald to Winding Stair.
Great plan, Google!
So here we were climbing the fire road (Tellico Road) to Tellico Gap, me in my RAV4, and Momma Puma in her big ass truck. Holy Moly, people…that road is ridiculous! I kept thinking “jees, this should be a one-way stretch. God forbid, I meet someone coming the other way!” It was one lane, dirt/gravel, with a massive drop off that became visible at every hairpin turn. Momma Puma had to actually back up to maneuver around one particularly tight turn in the road. Pretty sure she was holding her breath!
At the top, we parked the cars, exited our respective vehicles and silently (well, almost silently) mouthed “Holy shiiiiiiiiiit” to each other. That was crazy!
Gathering my day hiking gear, I set off headed north to Wesser Bald Fire Tower. It was a gorgeous day, sunny with a temperatures that were going to climb no higher than the mid-70s. 🙂 🙂 🙂 Lucky me!
The climb was a long one, but not especially strenuous. The trail was flat, not a lot of rocks, and it moderately climbed to the fire tower. I pulled over for a break under the fire tower. The fire towers I passed in this section of North Carolina are so cool. I love climbing up and taking in the view from the top.
However, something weird happened on this trip that is new to me…vertigo on the fire tower steps. Never had that happened before. At Albert Mountain, I got to the second platform and stopped. Here at Wesser Bald, I made it half way up the second flight of steps, then had to sit down. I could of butt climbed the rest of the way to the top, but since I had a good view where I sat, I decided to stop there.
After my break I headed down towards the shelter. The trail started to narrow dramatically after passing the shelter. Fire damage and erosion has taken an immense toll on this section of trail. Most of the day I was on a narrow strip of trail, the sides of the mountain falling off on either side of me. I watched my step!
The damage to the trail came to a head at the “jump-off”. I was flabbergasted at the condition. I had thoughts running through my head like, “I shouldn’t even be walking on this.” and “Holy mother of God, is this the trail???” Just below the jump-off, the trail was about 10 inches wide on an otherwise precariously steep slope that had seen some slide damage due to erosion. There was a place where a tree had fallen or shifted, leaving a gaping hole in the trail that needed to be stepped over.
I was happy to leave that part of the trail behind as I continued steeply downhill! I found a nice log to sit on down the trail a bit and had some lunch, while texting Momma Puma my approximate time of arrival to the NOC. The rest of the trail down to the NOC was steep in places, and there were signs of erosion, but nothing like what I experienced at the top. I was soon down and headed across the Nantahala River to don my flip flops and relax in an Adirondack chair while waiting for Momma Puma to show up. Bliss, I tell you!
The NOC has free Wifi, so I tapped into it. After sending another message to Momma Puma, I checked out Facebook. and there I saw it…Momma Puma was having a beer somewhere here at the NOC! What???? Beer??!!
Apparently, even though I had Wifi, my text messages weren’t reaching her…travesty when there is celebratory beverages concerned! …oh, I found her pretty quickly after that… 😀
Grab a cold one and Hike on!