Monday, March 26, 2012

Swim Bald ...

... isn't bald. Hasn't been for decades, or longer. It's all wooded. But it was a fascinating hike.

Today (Sunday March 18th) was summer-hot. I took a short hike, not starting until 12:45PM, and covering a bit over 13 miles, nearly all of which was the 3000 foot climb from the Natahala River Gorge (The famous Natahala Outdoor Center complex in Wesser, NC) to Swim Bald. About 2000 feet up, at a very rocky and steep section of trail called the "Jump-Up", the trail takes you to a couple of superb vistas that look back down on the river. This is my 'vista pick' photo du jour

The N.O.C. is a compact little hub of civilization, mostly centered on river rafting and kayaking in the Nantahala River gorge. It has a small general store, a big outfitter, and two competing restaurants on either side of the footbridge over which the AT crosses the river. In today's warm weather, and being a weekend, the place was hopping.

UP on the trail I passed two gentlemen without backpacks who are roughly my age, and who, it turns out are doing just what I'm doing (working their way south by day hikes). Except they are using two cars and only hiking each stretch of trail one way. Also, they are not averse to occasionally spending an overnight on the trail. The opening of our conversation was a little awkward:

"Maintainer?" Harry asks as we approach each other

"Pardon me?" I responded

"Oh ... are you hiking?"

"Uh, yes, I'm definitely hiking." I smiled.

And then the exchange got much more coherent and very cordial. Very pleasant guys.

One final view from the trail: this 'waterfall' is a trail-side spring. Fresh, cold water comes gushing out of the mountain and off this rock face. Just stick your water bottle in the flow and it's full in no-time. Best spring I've passed to date. It doesn't hurt that we've had a lot of rain lately, but this looks like a permanent water source. They all should be this convenient (no bending over, kinking up this old hiker's knees and back). Oh, shut up, old man, and hike :-)


Here's the route shown on a map with link to many more photos:

AT Day 71 - Swim Bald at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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