Our Big Hike ("N.W.A.") is a 4-day, 31-mile hiking trip in Nantahala National Forest. This is a portion of the Appalachian Trail, which eventually turns into Les Sentiers D'Estrie where it crosses into Québec further North. I guess this is only significant if you happen to know that I hiked a large portion of Les Sentiers D'Estrie when I was living in Sherbrooke, including my first solo snowshoe-camping trip when I hiked partway up Mont Orford in December, 1996.

DAY 0 (Wednesday June 17, 1998)
I decided I wasn't going to bring food that had to be cooked, seeing that this is only a 4-day trip. So the main part of my meals will be pre-cooked stir-fry that hopefully will taste just as good cold as it did hot.

Here is the contents of my pack. The food in the lower left consists of:
  • 1 pound of mushrooms (stir fry)
  • 2 pounds of potatoes (stir fry)
  • 1/2 pound of carrots (stir fry)
  • 3 bell pepers (stir fry)
  • 2 cups of rice (stir fry)
  • strawberry Pop-Tarts
  • gummy worms & gummy bears
  • 1 cantaloupe
  • 2.7 pounds of pears
  • 1.8 pounds of apples
  • 3 French rolls with strawberry jam
Items in this picture but which I decided to not pack include my old 2-person 11 lbs tent, my Nalgene bottle, the can of pears, and some of the clothes on the right.
At this point in time, with all of my things, my pack is 21 lbs.

It has now been more than 1 month since the trip, and I'm only now getting around to putting the web page together. You'll note 2 types of images from the trip: those from my Kodak DC210 camera are generally cropped or resized to 640x480, while the camera that Jaime was using (my older QV10a) captures at a maximum of 320x240.

The images from the Kodak are teal while the ones from the Casio are gray.

DAY 1 (Friday June 19, 1998)
Greg rented a cube van, in which we put some lawn chairs and our sleeping bags for the drive to North Carolina. The drive up took about 13 hours; we left after work on Thursday evening and arrived around 7am on Friday morning. The idea was that we'd take turns driving during the night, but I do not have car insurance, so instead I tried to stay up for part of the night and keep company whoever was driving.
Our starting location was close to the Standing Indian Campground, where the AT crosses Old Route 64.

Greg had arranged for someone to come around 8am and and drive the van to Wesser, our destination.

We started hiking around 9am, after the van had been picked up and we'd finished arranging our packs.

To my relief, the hiking was much closer to the typical Ontario/Québec hiking from back home.
We stopped for an early lunch at the junction to Route 64, which incidently is where the red line starts at the bottom of this map. Immediately after lunch, we started on the portion of the trail called Winding Staircase.

Though the name seems to indicate otherwise, the Winding Staircase actually wasn't as hard as some of the other climbs we'd be doing in the next 2 days. These two images were taken at the bottom of the Stairs, before we started the climb.

Panther Knob, the ridge at the top of the Winding Staircase.

We were caught in our first shower shortly after reaching Panther Knob, while on our way to the Siler Bald shelter. At this point, I decided to hike ahead of the group to quickly get to the shelter, were we'd be spending our first night.
The shelters we saw on this part of the AT were all open-faced as can be seen here. This proved to be more than adequate to keep out the rain and wind that afternoon.
The rain continued only until 4pm. We received a few hiking visitors during the late afternoon, but all of them were going further and stopped only to rest or cook a quick meal.

With our first day of hiking now behind us, the packs were tied above us and we turned in for the night. The drive up the previous night had mostly robbed us of sleep, and by 21:30 I was the last to get to bed.

DAY 2 (Saturday June 20, 1998)
The morning of our second day, just before we left the shelter. The previous evening, Greg, Jaime and Ron had gone to take a look at Siler Bald, but both Dave and myself had no idea what we were going to be seeing.

At the top of Siler Bald is the following marker, indicating an elevation of 5216 feet. The "green"-looking image was actually taken the previous day, when Greg, Jaime and Ron had gone ahead to see the bald.

Around us, at the top of the bald, was an unobstructed 360-degree view of the mountains.

To the North, behind us in these 2 images, are the mountains from which we'd be eating a late lunch further this day.

A running joke during this trip consisted of various technological tidbits that we were convinced Jaime had brought along. This included a cell phone (which he was kind enought to actually bring along for emergency purposes), anti-gravity boots, a GPS system, his palm pilot, and a laptop with solar panels to check e-mail. We'd decided that Jaime would need a llama to cary all of the things we were accusing him of bringing along, at which point we ran into this sign along the trail: Hiker trail closed to motor vehicles, horses, and pack stock.

So much for the llama. Next year we'll hire out-of-work college students to carry our packs.

The AT reaches a crest at Wayah Bald, at which point an access road also ends in a parking lot. We found ourselves coming up to a parking lot filled with tourists' cars; the tourists has taken an easy way up the mountain to see the Wayah Bald observation tower.

The infamous Banana Tower.

You wont find it on the map...at least not with the name Banana Tower. We named it that way after a group of tourists took pitty on us and gave us the rest of their lunch, which consisted of many bananas as well as rice crispy squares and brownies. At the rate we ingested what they gave us, you'd have believed we'd been hiking for 6 months without any food!

More images from the Banana Tower. We finally left late in the afternoon to find a location at which we could make camp.

While Jaime, Dave, Greg and Ron slept in their tent, I took advantage of the great weather and slept outside by the fire pit. Jaime and I were the last to finally turn in, sometime after 10pm.
Cold hearted orb that rules the night,
removes the colours from our sight,
red is gray and yellow white,
but we decide which is right.
And which is an illusion.
Pinprick holes in a colourless sky,
let insipid figures of light pass by,
the mighty light of ten thousand suns,
challenges infinity and is soon gone.
Night time, to some a brief interlude,
to others the feat of solitude.

- Days of Future Passed, Moody Blues, 1967

DAY 3 (Sunday June 21, 1998)
Happy Father's Day, Dad! J'ai pris cette photo juste pour toi. Peut-être une fois que t'as pris ta retraite, nous allons avoir la chance de faire du hiking ou du canoetage?
This is not a pleasant picture! After only 2 days of hiking -- and about to embark on my third -- my feet are starting to feel the unfamiliar burden of hiking. Looks worse than what it feels though. The unseen blisters on my heels and my toes is probably the worse part, and even that was very easily tolerable. Before the end of the day, my knees started hurting which had me worried much more than the state of my feet.

Taking a mid-morning break.

Before I forget: Nadine, I have to let you know that a few people we met along the trail during our 4 days commented on the shirt and wanted to know more about the Wawasagama Outdoors Club.

Jaime: remember our discussion of whether charged batteries weigh more than dead batteries? :)

This image was taken shortly before our lunch stop at Cold Spring shelter. The Cold Spring shelter is where we ran into a church group of maybe 12 or 15 kids out on a 2-day hike. They started out at the bottom of the hill just before Cold Spring, and like us, they were headed to the new Wesser Bald shelter for the evening.
It began raining quite hard shortly after I took the picture above, and I moved on ahead of the group to get to the shelter as quick as possible. The trail from the Cold Spring shelter to Wesser Bald consisted of a continuous 2-mile downhill immediately followed by a 2-mile uphill. In between was a power-line maintenance road, where the group we had met at lunch caught up to Jaime, Greg, Ron and Dave.

The view from the crest at Wesser Bald was especially rewarding since I was now above the clouds. My knees were especially difficult to deal with by this time, and I was looking forward to getting to the shelter for the evening. Thus, I did not take the side trail to the Wesser Bald tower, while Jaime, Dave and Greg did go see it when they arrived later.

These 3 images were taken from the Wesser Bald tower.

Also staying with us at the Wesser Bald shelter were two ladies who had hiked up from the power line maintenance road for an overnight trip, as well as the group that we'd first met at lunch at the Cold Spring shelter earlier in the day.

I stayed up particularly late that night with the group, sitting around and signing at the campfire.

DAY 4 (Monday June 22, 1998)

The highlight of the morning was a pair of snakes that appeared from beneath the shelter, and remained with us throughout the morning while we prepared breakfast and packed our things.

At this point in time, the batteries to the camera Jaime was using had gone dead, and I only had 3 or 4 images left on my second ATA card. I told myself I'd keep them for when we'd get to Wesser, our final destination, but alas when I finally arrived, I stored the camera in the van and I never did take the final pictures.

From where we'd stayed at the Wesser Bald shelter, the rest of the trail was almost completely downhill. Just before 12 o'clock (noon), I emerged from the trail and spent the rest of the afternoon playing in the rapids at the Wesser Outdoor Center. We left Wesser around between 3 and 4pm, and arrived in Jupiter at 6am on Tuesday morning.

After all this, I can say that while my idea of bringing "fresh" food as opposed to using the dry-freeze food didn't really work out. I'm indepted to Jaime and Dave for sharing their extra food with me on the last night!

For future reference:

[UP] [E-mail] charette@writeme.com
Stéphane Charette, 26 July, 1998