Tuesday, 3/31

AT Miles = 11.5 / 135
Other Miles = 0 / 13
Total Miles = 11.5 / 147.9

It was a cold night last night. Okay, it wasn't any colder than several other nights I've camped on this trip, but my own absent-mindedness made it a cold night. As you know, I sleep in a camping hammock. In a hammock you need insulation under you, as the cold air curculates underneath the hammock. I have my hammock set up with a double bottom, with the outer layer made of silnylon so it is waterproof and more or less windproof. Between the two layers I have an open cell foam pad that is made for the Hennessy Hammock and provides insulation. The OCF pad has small elastics on either side that attach to the edge of the hammock and aligns it correctly so that it is positioned under the part of the hammock where I lie.On either end it has long elastics which attach to the hammock suspension line on the head end and the foot end. These elastics hold the OCF pad up against the hamm,ock bottom tightly, so there is no air space between the hammock bottom and the OCF pad. Well, when setting
up the hammock I attached the side elastics, but I never attached the elastics on the ends. Duh! I woke up about 4:00am this morning with my back and butt very chnilled. For the life of me I couldn't figure out why, so I just suffered through it until it was light enough to get up about 7:00. Only then did I realize my mistake, which left a gap between the insulating pad and ther hammock, and let cold air in to chill me.

Lately I have been eating a cold breakfast rather than using the time and fuel to heat water and make tea and oatmeal, so after eating my Grape Nuts with powdered milk, and drinking an Instant Breakfast, also mixed with powdered milk, I packed up and was on the trail about 8:15. After pushing kind of hard yesterday to make 16 miles, I took it easy today. It was a cool, damp, overcast day, and hiking felt really good; generating enough heat to make me comfortable hiking in shorts and a T-Shirt.

A couple of brief rain showers passed over a couple of hours into my hike, and since I was just passing by the Wesser Bald Shelter, I stopped there about 10:30 and ate an early lunch of English Muffins with peanut butter under cover, and I also rigged my pack for the rain. The rain stopped in a few minujtes and it didn't rain again the rest of my hike.

Abolut an hour later I reached the top of the ridge overlooking the Nantahala Gorge and the Nantahala River. The view was quite impressive, though I don't know if the pictures I took will look like it since it was a very flat, gray day and it may just look like a dull, featureless, gray mass.

From here the rest of the hike was downhill, which is murder on my feet. I'd rather climb all day than descend! I finally reached the bottom around 1:30 and came out at the Nantahala Oudoor Center, directly opposite the outfitters store. I had a mail-drop scheduled here so I wen in and inquired after my package, and sure enough when they checked the book it showed that they had 1 package for Allen Freeman. The clerk went to retrieve it for me and when he returned I found to my surporise that the bos was not from home (the box with my food for the next two days to Fontana Dam) , but rather iot was from a friend out in California. I asked the clerk to double-check, but that was the only package for me.

I took the heft surprise package in hand, and after getting directions I set off to register for a bunk in the hostel, then got to my assigned place and opened my package to find a huge array of snacks and supplies. It was like Christmas morning and I wastede nol time in pawing through it pulling out, first, all the food, and then going back and picking out akk the most useful supplies. The box must have weighed 10 pounds and there is no way I can take all of its contents, but I have offered the largesse to the othjer hikers here tonight and the box is well on its way to being emptied.

After opening my surprise package, but before taking a shower, I called Jodi and asked her about the package she mailed to me here, only to find out that I screwed up communications and Jodi didn't realize she was supposed to mail anything. That being the case, all the little goodies in my surporise box are going to come in very handy, as they are going to provide the base, along with some odds and ends left in my food bag and a couiple of Pop-Tarts I bought at the store here, of my diet for the next couple of days until I get to Fontana Dam and my next mail-drop.

So now I've showered, washed out my socks, and had a meal and a couple of beers at the restaurant. Tomorrow morning I'll have a big breakfast in the restaurant (I checked and they open at 8:00), then make my climb out of thee gorge (3,000 feet in six miles of steady climbing) and be on my way towards Fontana Dam.I may get into Fontana on Thursday afternoon.If not, then I should get there early on Friday, in plenty of time to get a ride into town and pick up my package at the post office beofre they close at 4:30. From Fontana Dam, I'll enter the Great Smoku Mountains National Park. That's exciting!

So, a special thanks to my anonymous benefactor. Yes Monique, that's you. (Did you enjoy your brief anonymity?) All kidding aside, that was an overwhelming array of goodies you packed. I am stunned by the effort you must have put into it. I promise you that every last item will be gratefully used by me or some other hiker.

Finally, a special note to Bogey and Slim, if you are reading this: I ate breakfast at the Baptist Church in Franklin yesterday morning, and saw your signatures on the wall for the class of 2008!

Allen Freeman