Day 12 (April 4th): Winding Stair Gap to Wayah Bald Shelter

Miles hiked today: 11
Miles hiked total: 120.8
Miles to go: 2064.5

Today, we really lucked out. It was predicted to rain and thunder all day and a bunch of people in Franklin actually decided to take a zero or nero day. Chrissy, Wing It, and I decided to hike on and brave the rain. We left Kim and Oli, Simba, Muffin Man (Sam), Beans (Jay), and Mighty Blue behind after eating a free breakfast the First Baptist Church provided, and took the 9:00 shuttle back to the trail. It was pretty muggy, windy, and foggy when we first started and we were expecting to be hit hard with the rain.

It did sprinkle on us for a bit and then eventually opened up to actual rain. This whole thing probably lasted 2 hours. We decided to stop at the first shelter for lunch and it was around then that the rain completely stopped and the sun made an appearance. It was still hazy, but warm. We never were able to find the first shelter, so we just took a break right on the trail.

We continued to hike and it sprinkled on and off, but nothing threatening, and we were able to see some great views. The trail was a lot of “up” today, but my body responded well to it. I think I might be developing my trail legs. I even had a full pack because of resupply, but it felt much nicer than the day we crossed into NC.

When we got up to the top of Wayah Bald, there was trail magic waiting for us. They had fruit, snacks, first-aid materials, and lawn chairs. We each had a juice and rested on the chairs and were able to use a bathroom that was nearby. While we were resting, 2 hikers passed us. One of the hikers looked like a kid we hiked with on the first day who also stayed at Hawk Mountain Shelter. We ran into them again at the shelter and the 5 of us all spent some time together around the campfire. The familiar looking person confirmed that he was the kid I saw on my first day hiking. His trail name is Pipe (because he smokes from a pipe…) and his friend’s name is Woodstock (his middle and last names are Charlie Brown [which is awesome] – it’s also influenced by his love of the Grateful Dead and Phish). Eventually, Ishmael, Nathan, Super Tramp, and Big A joined us around the fire.

When we were at the top of Wayah Bald, we climbed a stone observation tower that showed the views in all directions. We were able to see the Smokies and what’s to come, as well as all of the mountains that we’ve climbed. We were able to see Albert Mountain and the fire tower that marked 100 miles, as well as that ridiculously steep mountain we climbed coming into NC. It was impressive, being able to see how far we’ve come.

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