Southern Appalachian Trail Trip Report

By Arthur 'RockDancer' Gaudet.

After 20 days of hiking I'm feeling great and heading towards the end of the trail at Amicalola SP, Springer Mountain. I should be finishing on June 20, six days from now. I have only 66 more miles of trail to hike so that gives me plenty of time.
The trail so far this trip has continued to surprise & please. I've had encounters with two new animals, and of course I've interacted once again with Black Bears - 5 so far on this trip, with 2 'close encounters'. No worries, nothing serious, I just had to say "shoo bear" and they went on their way, and I was able to keep my food. The two new animals were River Otter, and an owl that I have to look up. I was stealth camping by the Nantahala River and saw the otter playing just near the tent, swimming up and down in a deep pool probably looking for fish. I saw the owl one evening around 6 pm, I was getting water from a stream and the owl swooped into a nearby tree with a mouse in its mouth! I watched the tail go into it's beak. Cool!
Of the 20 days, only 1 day where I wasn't feeling up to being out there. I had stomach cramps on a hot day and it coincided with a big climb towards Wesser Bald from the Nantahala Outdoor Center. I managed only 6 miles that day, but felt fine the next day and since.
These sections of trail are bringing back lots of memories from my first hike in 1997. Some parts of the trail are correcting my memories, and others are bringing back things I haven't thought of in 10 years. And the trail is so beautiful this time of year. So far I've seen huge areas of Mountain Laurel in bloom, 4 different colors of Azalea growing along the trail. The only disappointment has been nearly a complete lack of Catawba Rhododendron in bloom. The locals say a late spring freeze killed all the buds, and possibly lots of plants as well. In places there is little but dead rhododendron.
So this 280 mile hike is turning out just great. It's sweet & sad to be so close to the end. Some hiker friends may come out for the finish & walk the last mile with me. But if not it'll still be a touching time for me. Once finished I'll get in the car and start heading North back to Massachusetts, taking perhaps a week to visit with friends along the way.

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