Day 16 – March 23 – 6 miles – Wesser bald shelter to Nantahala Outdoor Center (N.O.C.)
In the morning I was feeling a little better, but Stoat and I decided to hike six miles down to the NOC and call it a day. The only other option was to hike an additional six miles with an elevation gain of 3000ft tho the next shelter. I wasn’t up to that.
About a half mile into our hike we came to The Jumpoff. It was the last view before descending down 2200ft to the NOC. What a view it was.
I felt the inclination to howl again, but again I held back. About 15 minutes later we heard a loud howl echoing off the hills. Odin and Feathers had found The Jumpoff. It seemed I wasn’t the only one compelled to howl from the mountaintops.
A few miles later we met a couple who had found a stray dog. It didn’t have a collar and the couple wasn’t sure what to do. It was a good natured little dog but it didn’t want to leave to spot is was in. The couple decided to move on and let us decide what to do.
Stoat, an avid dog lover, decided he was going to carry the pup down to the NOC and see if anyone there could help out.
About a mile later we arrived at the A. Rufus Morgan shelter. There were a few locals hanging out there and they asked Stoat if that was his dog. When Stoat told them of is plan they advised him not to do that. ” The shelters around here are kill shelters. Besides, a lot of the locals round here let their dogs run loose in the woods. Some of them don’t believe in using collars” one of them said.
Stoat was faced with a hard choice. Bring the dog to the NOC or let it go. If he left it near the shelter there would be plenty of hikers to feed the dog some scraps. If he brought it to the NOC it would most likely wind up being euthanized.
Very reluctantly, Stoat let the dog go. He felt absolutely awful about it. He would keep questioning his decision for quite a while.
The N.O.C was a small outpost in the hills of North Carolina that dedicated itself to outdoor recreation. There were many different buildings located on the grounds and there was a wide river running through the middle of the property.
They had zip lines, white water rafting, a white water kayaking course, am outfitter, a general store, lodging, and most importantly, a restaurant.
We met up with Wildthing, Odin, and Feathers at the restaurant and treated ourselves to some town food.
In the middle of our meal two younger hikers came over to say hi. They were British, so naturally, when they heard Wildthing was British, they suddenly had a lot to talk about. They were nice guys and we had great conversations. I was having a good time with great people but the thought of my poor health was always in the back on my mind. Then, as I was eating my brownie sunday, I started to feel feverish again.
Wildthing, Odin, and Feathers were headed to the shelter 6 mile ahead. So, after lunch we said “See you down the trail” (hikers never saw goodbye) and went to arrange our lodging for the night.
Our bunk room was completely on the other side of the property and up a hill. By the time I got to the hill I was beat. I was staggering up the hill, much to Stoats bewilderment. He admonished me to ” Stop walking like that”. Surprisingly, that didn’t help my situation.
Once we got to the bunk room, I got into bed and didn’t move. I was cooked.