Appalachian Trail Section Hike Trip 4
Winding Stair Gap (Mile 110) to Stecoah Gap (Mile 150)
The Captain and I were very confident going into this trip. This would be our fourth section hike, and we had learned a lot over the past 110 miles. However, this trip would prove to be more challenging than expected, and we learned a lot of lessons.
Troubles started on the trip up. We had a shuttle driver lined up to pick us up at Winding Stair Gap, but he flaked out on us about 2 hours before our arrival. I searched online and found another driver, but that cost us an hour.
The replacement driver was interesting to say the least. Even though it was raining and cold, he kept the windows of his car open. As the Captain gets motion sick in cars, I didn’t say anything.
Then he started chain smoking cigarettes. Then a weird beep went off in the car. Turns out, our driver has had substance issues, and was required to blow in a breathalyzer every 15 minutes or so to keep his car running. The trip took over an hour to get back to Winding Stair Gap. It was a long hour.
We arrived on the trail at the tail end of a bad thunderstorm. There was hail everywhere. It looked like an ice machine exploded.
Within the first 30 minutes of our hike, the Captain started to break out in severe rashes. I think he got bit on the hand, because that was where the swelling was the worst. This is a very unsettling feeling as we were in the middle of no-where.
Pro tip – Be sure to keep Benadryl in the first aid kit, wish we had…
We knocked out 7 miles that first day. We camped not too far from a road. I didn’t like being that close to the road, but I had cell reception and figured we could get off the trail easily if the rashes got worse.
The next morning, we got up and the Captain was better. I checked the weather map and saw that a bad thunderstorm was going to hit around 1. We had 10 miles to a shelter, so we started our hike early.
Pro-tip – always be aware of the weather. Good planning can avoid really bad situations.
We got to the Cold Spring Shelter about 30 minutes before the storm. We had great timing. We ate lunch, and then took naps until the storm passed. We ended up spending about three hours at the shelter.
As we were about to leave a thru-hiker from Pittsburgh showed up. This was the first person we had seen in our two days on the trail. We had a nice talk, and he gave my son a bunch of candy he didn’t like and didn’t want to carry. We were very appreciative.
Our plan was to make it another six miles to the Wesser Bald Shelter and call it a night. However, when we got there, we both felt great. It was probably because of the nap. So, we decided to push through and make it to the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC).
We had my wife call the NOC ahead of us, and reserve a room. We ended up hiking the last mile in the dark with our headlights, but were very happy to sleep in a warm bed and get a hot shower after the long day. We ended up hiking 22 miles on the trail, our first 20+ mile day. More importantly, we were able to get Benadryl at the NOC.
The next day we woke up refreshed. We went to the NOC General Store and stocked up on junk food. Then we started hiking.
The first 8 or so miles were straight uphill. That was a tough start to the day. Fortunately, the last five were downhill. It was an uneventful 14 miles.
When we got back to Stecoah Gap we decided to call it a week. Our plan was to go further, but I was unsettled with the Captain’s rashes.
We did leave trail magic at Stecoah. We left a box of candy bars like last time. The book the Captain left was filled with nice notes thanking him for the magic.
Before we left, we made a nice care package for the thru-hiker from Pittsburgh. We had been calling him ‘The Candyman’ and left a note saying that should be his trail name. We have no way of ever knowing if he got it, but I hope so and I hope it gave him a pick-me-up.
Some other thoughts on the trip:
Pro Tip – The night we camped I left my phone charging on a portable battery all night. It ended up draining the battery which should have lasted a few days. In the future, I will charge when hiking so I can control how long I’m charging.
Pro Tip – Make sure your bag is completely sealed when cooking dehydrated camp meals. Mine wasn’t and I got a bad surprise when I went to shake it.