I get to start my journey in Georgia with a ride to the trail head from my eldest son, Ben who lives in the Atlanta area with his gorgeous wife Vanessa and two daughters, a pair of the most adorable Georgia peaches you’ve ever seen!. What a great way to start the adventure! Hiking into North Carolina brings me close to more family members. My only sister, Diane, whom I have admired all my life, lives in Winston-Salem and my only daughter, Beth, makes her home in Charlotte with her special husband, Justin, and four of my incredible grandchildren.
North Carolina has 88 miles of the AT, not including more than 200 miles along the Tennessee Border. The trail enters from Georgia at Bly Gap then crosses over peaks such as Standing Indian Mountain, Mt. Albert and Wayah Bald. The trail travels through the Nantahala National Forest including the Nantahala Outdoor Center, the Nantahala River Gorge, and the Nantahala River crossing. Nantahala is Cherokee for “land of the noonday sun.” With a name like that, I am not expecting any rain!
Thirty miles further north, Fontana Dam marks the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). The highest point along the entire length of the AT is located in GSMNP at the observation deck for Clingmans Dome. I have highlighted this fantastic spot in NC on a separate post so I won’t repeat details here. There is a good chance that I might encounter some snow in the Great Smoky’s. I am hoping to miss the white stuff in NC but the GSMNP can get mighty cold at night well into the spring of the year.
The A.T. Conservancy http://www.appalachiantrail.org/about-the-trail/terrain-by-state/north-carolina describes the trail in NC, “Like much of the A.T. in the deep South, you have a feeling of remoteness, and a sensation of being in deep forests. The variety of forest growth and the beauty of the flowering shrubs, along with the many spectacular views, make this entire section of Trail memorable” This quote sure makes my feet tap with anticipation.
The Appalachian Trail was built through the town of Hot Springs, North Carolina over 70 years ago, and today white blazes still mark the path through town and over the bridge across the French Broad River. Watch for a future blog that will spotlight this cool trail town, the first such community that a NOBO hiker will encounter.