APPALACHIAN TRAIL, CHEOAH BALD TRIP REPORT – JANUARY 25, 2002

1/25/2002

GA/NC – Cloudy in the am, but clearing to partly cloudy by the afternoon. Cool tonight with low’s below 30’s in Franklin.

Had a utility session this morning on Optical Ethernet, then had lunch with Rob Larsen and the Cingular Wireless crowd in the cafeteria.  Worked until around 4:15pm, then headed home to wait for Matt Brunn to pick me up for a backpacking trip to the AT in N.C. He was at my house by 5:45pm, then we drove to Derek Porter’s place where Dave Towsma met us.

Hit the road around 6:30pm for Franklin, N.C. Met a bunch of Porter and Brunn’s (aka Boyz in the Wood) friends at a Mexican Restaurant called El Sombrero in Gainesville, GA after some grocery shopping at the Publix.  Brunn forgot his sleeping bag, so we had to take a side trip to a K-mart so he could buy a cheap one.

After the brief side trip, we continued on to Franklin and stayed at a Microtel for the night. Got there around 10pm and it was very chilly outside. I was packed and ready, but the others spent the evening packing their gear and food while I had a few beers and watched Letterman. Crashed with Brunn and shared a room with Towsma and Porter.

1/26/2002

NC – Foggy in the am. Clear and sunny out of the valley of Franklin. 60’s H, 20’s L.

Got a wake-up call around 6:30am so we had plenty of time to shuttle cars and hike the 12 miles to Wesser Bald Shelter. Brunn still had to finish packing this am despite working on it until after 1am last night.  Had a small breakfast at the Microtel, then stopped in at McDonalds across the street for a chaser. The sun came up during breakfast but it was very foggy and quite cold. The trucks were covered in frost this morning.

Drove to Wayah Bald and Stephen, Joe, and Derek left us to shuttle trucks to the Bartram trailhead near Wesser, N.C. The rest of us (Ed, Dave T, David H, Matt, Greg, Woody) took some photos at Wayah Bald then started the hike. The sun came out once we left Franklin, and we had nice weather the entire day.

Spent most of the morning hiking with Towsma, and we took breaks at the Cold Spring Shelter? and Tellico Gap. Saw a Southbounder and talked to him for a bit at the shelter, then caught up with the rest of the group at Tellico Gap and took a brief break before the climb to Wesser Bald.

Decided to take the fire road which was shorter, but much steeper. Still beat Mullet up there even though he left before me. The GPS was helpful, and I tracked the tower to within .19 of a mile, although I couldn’t see it.  All of us took a long break on top of the tower and eventually Porter, Stephen, and Joe caught up with us. Finally headed down to the shelter around 4pm at the back of the pack. Stopped briefly at the 10/01 campsite I used with Roger and Alison last fall, and also at the water source to load up for the evening.

Pitched my tent near the trail since these guys filled up the shelter tonight and there were not any flat areas nearby. A northbounder rolled in just before dark, and he seemed entertained by our trail stories around the campfire this evening. He said he had spent the last few weeks alone.

The fire was a bitch to start tonight since the wood was all wet from a week of rain. Used Porter’s stove to start it, and after some considerable effort we finally got the fire to burn without maintenance.  Joe and Porter cooked up a few giant dishes of pasta for the group while I worked on the fire. Eventually we all settled into some booze and tobacco for an evening around the campfire which lasted until around 11pm.

GROUP STATS
6 of the 10 were former thru-hikers (Goodrich, Porter, Moehlich, Ewing, Brunn, Delisle)
2 of the 10 were into Eco-Challenge type races (Bracy, Ed)
7 of the 10 were Sigma Chi’s (Goodrich, Porter, Moehlich, Ewing, Brunn, Delisle, Woodward)
4 of the 10 climbed Rainer (Delisle, Porter, Woodward, Ewing)

1/27/2002

NC – Sunny. Warmer to 60’s H, 30’s L.

I got up before sunrise to get an early start today. We had almost 15 miles scheduled which included a brutal hike up Cheoah Bald. Packed most of my gear up before breakfast, then joined the others down at the shelter for oatmeal. This was the first backpacking trip since LASIK surgery, and it was nice to wake up without dry contacts for a change.

I was the first one on the trail at 8:30am, and I spent the first two hours hiking alone. Eventually Joe, David, Woody, and Greg caught me at the Jump Up. Hiked with them the rest of the way to Wesser and took a short food break in route.

Made it to Wesser by 11:15am and bought some batteries, some chilly, chips and a soft drink. Took a long break until 12:38pm when Greg and I hit the trail in the front of the pack. Porter, Brunn, and Towsma were the last to roll into the NOC, and they hit the trail a solid 45 minutes after us.

It didn’t take long for Joe and David to catch me out of the NOC. Woody, Ed, and Stephen did the same about three miles out of Wesser, and Brunn, Towsma, and Porter finally caught me at the lookout just before Swim Bald.  Hiked in to Sassafras Gap shelter with Brunn and read the register, got water, and used the restroom. Porter sent Tousma on to the summit, but left a few minutes before me after he got water with Brunn.

The sun set as I was hiking out of Sassafras Gap at 6pm. It took me an hour to hike the 1.2 miles to the summit, and I was dead tired but in pretty good spirits. The lengthy breaks had helped significantly, although I can honestly say that I would never do this hike again.

The sky looked spectacular through the trees, and I imagine the sunset was fantastic from Cheoah Bald. Took a few pictures in route to the summit, but none of them did the skies justice.  I spent the last 15 minutes in near darkness and was tempted (but too tired) to pull out my head lamp. I finally arrived at the Bald around 7pm having tracked it on the GPS – being certain of my final destination which I could see through the trees.

The others had pitched camp and were preparing dinner when I arrived. Put on some warm clothes, set up my tent, then joined them for more pasta and hot chocolate. We didn’t do a fire tonight but sat around in a circle at the summit and told more trail stories and passed a bottle of whiskey. Crashed around 10pm, too tired to enjoy it.

1/28/2002

NC/GA – Sunny. Warmer. Increasing clouds late in the afternoon. 60’s H, 40’s L

Everyone else was up and posing for a photo at sunrise on Cheoah Bald when I got out of the tent to join them. I watched the sun come up from my tent earlier in the morning, but was too cozy to get out of the bag. Sunrise was at 7:38am this morning according to the GPS.

It was cold last night, but warmer and I read 38 degrees on my watch inside the tent this morning. Had some breakfast with the group, then packed up and headed out solo in the middle of the pack around 9:30am. My knee was killing me the first mile off Cheoah Bald, and I was moving slowly and expected the others to catch me. Surprisingly, they never did even though I took my time and shot a few pictures of campsites and waterfalls on the way down the mountain.

It was a long five mile hike off Cheoah Bald along the Bartram Trail, and much of it involved rock hopping back-and-forth across a creek. I eventually made it to the road, but didn’t pop out where Ed, Stephen, David, and Greg did. So they came back to get me, and parked at the Bartram trailhead and waited for the others.

After 45 minutes, they radioed to say they had popped out the same place I did. So we drove to get them, then headed back to Wayah Bald to get the other trucks.  Drove to Franklin for some BBQ for lunch around 2pm. The restaurant closed at 2:30pm, so we barely made it.

Rode back to Porter’s house in his truck with Brunn and Towsma. Brunn ran me home by 5:30pm, and I unpacked my gear then hit the showers.  Ordered a pizza from Dominoes, watched TV and made a few phone calls to cap the night. I was so tired that I went to bed just after 10pm.