Wayah Bald Shelter to Base Camp, Nantahala Outdoor Center – 16.5 miles
I get started at 7 AM. I am not far into the day when my left knee starts bothering me. I stop briefly to get from my pack the elastic knee support I carried just in case I needed it. The several long descents today are fairly painful on my knee. The knee starts feeling better about noon. I decide to call it a day, albeit short, when I arrive at the Nantahala Outdoor Center about 2 PM.
I sit on the bench outside the general store while I eat ice cream. This is a neat little riverfront setting with an outfitters, general store, restaurant, and adventure shop. I walk over to the Base Camp hostel office to get a bunk. I drop my pack in the triple bunk room and head back across the way to the laundry mat, where another hiker, I’d just run into outside the hostel, would meet me to share the cost of laundry. He had purchased the detergent, but never showed up to do laundry.
After waiting long enough, I cross the road to River’s End Restaurant. I eat an awesome hamburger, salad, and blackberry cobbler with ice cream while I talk and Facetime with my family! It is so great to see them. All are well. After dinner I sit in the freezing (not actually, but it is cold) river for 20 minutes to ‘ice’ my knee/legs. It seems as cold as an ice bath. I think it’ll still be good for my legs.
There is a trail festival tomorrow and Saturday. As I am walking across the facilities, a guy stops me and says I look like a runner and asks if I wanted to stick around for the half marathon on Saturday. He was the race director and would give me a free number right now. Strangely (or not), I did not immediately rule it out, but it’s two days away. If it was tomorrow, there’s be a strong possibility, I would be game.
Later in the evening, I talk to Lindsay again outside the bathhouse after I brush my teeth. We have a good conversation and it’s so nice. I explain to her how I understand why so many people drop out at this point in the hike (not that I’m anywhere close to quitting, just saying). I have worked my butt off for seven days and I’m only 137 miles in! If one is not fully committed to getting to Katahdin and does not want to get there more than he or she wants to quit, one is not going to make it. Katahdin is so far away, too far to even think about or comprehend. It’s pointless to countdown mile by mile, shorter-term milestones are better, such as: state borders, 500 mile, 1,000 mile, 2,000 mile marks.
It’s late now as I write this. I’m sleeping in a room with three other guys. I’ve got an early morning tomorrow.