Nantahala AT

Picture of standing_indian This page encompasses several hikes over two years that collective cover the Nantahala section of the Appalachian Trail, which is about 59 miles (94 km) from the Georgia state line to the Nantahala River. We had a fairly long layoff in the middle of this section while Melanie had surgery to repair a torn ACL. The southernmost part of this section (pre-surgery!) is centered around Standing Indian Mountain and a series of trails radiate from here towards Standing Indian campground. From the state line it's generally a vicious climb to get up to the ridge. There's not much in terms of water sources, viewpoints, or breaks from the ascent.
Picture of nantahala_hw Standing Indian is a notable mountain on the trail but we don't have a picture of it because when we reached the summit there were about 50 people camped all over it. As a result we continued on to Carter Gap Shelter which doesn't lead to very spectacular photos but is in an area with lots of streams and waterfalls. The side trails that run north from the AT through this section are steep, long and not well-blazed so a decent topo map is a nice thing to have.
Picture of mt_albert Northbound up Mt. Albert is an infamous climb on the AT and lived up to its billing. There are several sections of this 'trail' that require both hands to clamber over boulders or up 'steps'. There is a tower atop Mt. Albert and a nice rocky bald which makes a fine lunch spot. This is the only picture we had time for before the rain started though, so we spent much of the rest of this afternoon in a shelter just north of Mt. Albert.
Picture of franklin_view Between Mt. Albert and Siler Bald are several good views to the east towards Franklin. We had an uneventful hike until we crossed US 64 where everything started to go wrong. Trout managed to enrage some wasps, and as usual they stung us instead of him. A storm arose (again) just after that and there was frequent lightning, conveniently right when we were atop a hill. After an hour or so hiding under some deadfall, we hiked on to the next shelter in a complete downpour. When we got to Wayah Gap we shuttled by car back around to US64 and discovered some fairly serious storm damage just a half mile or so from where were sheltering.
Picture of wesser_ridge The hike up to Wayah Bald follows a dirt road and one wouldn't expect much of a wilderness experience from it. There are bathrooms at Wayah Bald and several parking areas. Nevertheless it was near the top of Wayah that we saw an adolescent black bear. He ran down the forest road before jumping into a rhododendron thicket and disappearing from view. I suppose we should mention it was raining rather hard through most of this. Apparently it always rains around Wayah.
Picture of wesser_bald_tower After Wayah there's not much in terms of landmarks until Wesser Bald and the large lookout tower there. This is a popular shuttle hike from the Nantahala Outdoor Center and there were always other people around atop Wesser Bald. The tower itself is not for the faint of heart, nor for anyone with a fear of heights. Many of the floor boards at the top are partially missing. Even without the tower though, there's a great view from the grassy bald.
Picture of wesser_bald_view From Wesser it's all downhill. Literally, all downhill for the next 6 miles. Somewhere through here we spooked a snake about 3-4 ft (1m) long. This is only notable because in its haste to flee from us it actually hurdled a medium-sized log. As near as we can tell, it never touched any part of the log. We were impressed. The end of this hike switchbacks down to the Nantahala Outdoor Center. Arriving late in the afternoon, we could smell grilled food for about the last hour before finally getting down to restaurant level.

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