Martin Steel

Winding Stair Gap to the NOC

Day 16: Day off in Franklin

We caught up with Whoobie and Kiba last night and went for a reasonable Japanese. The day started off with chores like resupply but we bumped in to another hiker who mentioned free food. Unable to resist the pull off beer and free food we all headed over to Lazy Hiker Brewing Company tried a couple of their craft beers and ate a delicious lunch provided by Nantahala Hiking Club - thanks guys!

At the lunch we bumped in to Stonebridge who’d spent the previous night at a hippy commune claiming to be a hostel. To say he wasn’t impressed would be an understatement so he ended up spending the second night in town on our floor.

Day 17: Wine Spring Road campsite.

  • 8.2 miles
  • 27,840 steps
  • 329 floors

A slightly late start after finding pretty much everywhere in Franklin is closed on Sunday, we rejoined the trail at Winding Stair Gap. Our shuttle driver had warned us all not to miss the view at Siler Bald.

A few pretty steep uphill miles brought us out to a meadow with a clear path off to the left, this lead up Siler Bald. The Bald itself was a pretty steep climb up a grassy hill but it was worth the effort, rewarding us with 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains.

Me on Siler Bald

A quick stop for lunch and onwards we went first down nearly 1000 foot and then back up the same.

Our plan for the night was to head for a campsite just after Cold Spring shelter, but when we got the we were out of flat spots, luckily we’d just passed another suitable spot digit a peaceful nights sleep away from everyone else.

Day 18: Campsite by Cold Spring shelter

  • 7.7 miles
  • 21,363 steps
  • 166 floors

A couple of miles in to the day we headed up Wayah Bald which has a old stone fire tower on the summit, this gave excellent views of the surrounding mountains including the path up Siler Bald from the day before.

John Bernard Byrne fire tower on Wayah Bald

View from Fire tower on Wayah Bald

A steep descent and a decent climb most of the way back up brought us to Cold Spring shelter. It was tiny and smelt of wee, so it didn’t take much thought to head a further 0.1 miles up the trail to a campsite instead. This turned out to be a really fortunate decision as we found a camping spot with a great view out over the valley and to more mountains beyond. The only down side was the 5000 foot elevation combined with freezing temperatures and 30+mph wind made for a fairly cold and noisy night.

Day 19: A. Rufus Morgan shelter

  • 9.6 miles
  • 28,232 steps
  • 188 floors

The day started off with a steep knee-jarring 1200 foot descent followed by an 800 foot rise, much of it through green tunnels of rhodedendrons, up to Wesser Bald.

Green tunnel of trail up to Wesser Bald

Wesser Bald is topped by a steel observation tower - think of the bottom third of an electricity pylon - again giving amazing views of the surrounding mountains.

Observation tower on Wesser Bald

Me on the observation tower at the     top of Wesser Bald

The trail then descends almost 2000 further feet, this second descent was particular pleasant as in places the trail suddenly turned in to a 5 foot or so drop of sheer rock, in others it had washed away completely leaving you to skirt the top of a few hundred feet of very steep drop.

We spent the night in the shelter to avoid too much packing the following morning in anticipation of breakfast at the NOC.

Day 20: Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC)

  • 1 mile (+ about 5 walking around NOC)
  • 12,733 steps
  • 49 floors

A super short day of hiking (a nero in hiker speak) brought us in to the NOC in time for breakfast. Pancakes, sausages and eggs were so much better than instant porridge. We then spent the day lounging around and found laundry until Kiba and Whoobie arrived for dinner. Quickly followed by more lounging and a night in a very basic wooden cabin.

Milage so far: 137.3 miles in 20 days