DF: Our first day of our spring break adventure–hiking the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. We were on the road by 9:45 heading west on I-40. We drove straight through to Sylva, NC, where we stopped at LuLu’s for lunch just before 1 PM. Ken had the beef enchiladas special and I had rice noodles with chicken, veggies, and peanut sauce. Both were quite good. We’d eat there again, or at the place we went last May, on our next time through.
We talked about scheduling a weekend visit, so that we could go to all three of the local breweries. There are two little motels right downtown–the old-fashioned low-slung one story kind with exterior entry doors to each unit. The county courthouse is also right downtown. It’s a grand white building high on a hill overlooking the town, with a long set of steps leading to the front doors.
After lunch it was almost two more hours to Neel Gap. We dropped off a food box to pick up later in the week, and Ken bought a merino Buff to replace the balaclava he misplaced on our trip last month. Buying a new one means that the old one will most likely show up soon.
The hostel and store at Neel Gap were full of hikers, as expected. It’ll be a busy week on the trail, unless the weather scares people off. We saw lots of snow on the high peaks as we drove through the Black Mountains and the Balsams. Elevations aren’t as high here, so we don’t have snow here, and we do have leaves just popping out on the trees.
The day was sunny and gorgeous, with high temperatures in the fifties. The wind is strong, gusty, and very cold. As it gets later this evening, it’s getting quite cold. We’ve talked about how to keep warm tomorrow evening when we’re out in it. That will be a bit of a challenge, especially at the beginning of the trip. The forecast is for warmer weather later in the week.
Tonight we’re enjoying our private log cabin. It’s sixteen feet square with a bed, small sitting area, and a bathroom. Very cute. There’s a table and chairs on the porch–would be great in milder weather, but definitely not this evening. There are also two “eco-cabins,” which are converted shipping containers, and a main house with common areas and bunk rooms. We’ll have breakfast over there in the morning before our shuttle arrives to take us back to Deep Gap in NC (just south of Standing Indian) to begin our southbound trek to Springer. If all goes as planned, we’ll be back here next Saturday to pick up our car and head home.
BC: We made the five hour drive from Winston-Salem to Neels Gap by mid afternoon, with a lunch stop in Sylva, NC. It was a cold and windy day, and last night’s snow was visible on the tallest mountains. The Walasi-yi Center was packed with hikers and tourists. We dropped our resupply box and drove the rest of the way to the Hiker Hostel.
Our log cabin was cozy and warm, and the Hiker Hostel staff were welcoming. We had packed a nice dinner spread and a couple of beers, hoping to sit on the little front porch of the cabin for dinner al fresco, but it was in the low 50s and very windy so we ate inside.
The Hostel was full that evening, mostly hikers, with about a half dozen starting their thru-hikes at Springer the next morning. We spent the evening on final packing and turned in early. Given the weather forecast and the recent snow, we were prepared for cold nights and cool days.