It is pretty amazing what a night of good food and people can do for your moral. I hiked out of Dick's Creek in much much better spirits than the previous day. The ascent out of the gap was very gradual and helped ease out the morning muscle stiffness. I picked up a cheap knee wrap at the Hiawassee Ingles for the time being which helped, but I could still feel a little twang here and there on the downhills. Otherwise it was a gorgeous day to cross over my first border line! I am officially in the state of North Carolina! Crossing over into a new state on foot is an incredible experience, and North Carolina decided to welcome us with a near vertical climb up a mountain. I thought I was about to keel over and die right there. The last 2 miles were a struggle with my knee, but I made it to the shelter around 3:30. Nomad and Skipper decided to push onto the next shelter, but with my knee I decided to stay. I met Burl and Tree Beard, a married couple from Washington, at the shelter and we quickly started becoming friends. It's pretty amazing how quickly people bond out here. The first day in North Carolina was pretty awesome, and rewarded us with an incredible sunset.
Another gorgeous day on the trail! The sun was out and the birds were chirping. I hiked the entire day with HoBo (Homeward Bound) from Maine and Wall-E from Norway. I met them the first night at Stover Creek Shelter, and we have pretty similar paces. We took it pretty easy all day due to the fact that we were all nursing hurt knees. The big climb of the day was Standing Indian Mountain, which compared to the other stuff we have climbed it wasn't really that bad. The climb was very gradual and the trail was about 5 feet wide. We ate lunch on top of the mountain with one of the best views so far as our backdrop. As we made our way down the mountain my knee started to scream at me. The last couple of miles into camp were pretty brutal. Too tired to set up camp, I decided to sleep in the shelter again for the second night.
The wind from the previous night was so strong that I hardly slept. I woke up in a dense fog, figuratively and literally. I ate a few Pop tarts and Slim Jims to try to get some energy flowing, but nothing seemed to work. We left camp around 9 and made our way north. The big climb of the day was Albert Mountain, which was also another milestone. The 100 mile mark! We started the climb around 11 in the dense fog which was rather creepy at times when you have a shear drop off to one side of you. I imagine there would have been some pretty incredible views on the climb up, but we were offered none. As we neared the top we stumbled on some trail magic. I was absolutely dumbfounded. Here we were, almost to the top of a 4000ft mountain; and, here was this guy, sitting in a camper cooking pancakes for hikers. Only on the Appalachian Trail. I ate about 5 pancakes loaded with butter and syrup and made my way up the last ascent up Albert Mountain. We had reached the 100 mile mark and a pretty cool fire tower! We ate a quick lunch and made our way down the mountain. My knee felt pretty good for the most part on the way down. A little twang here and there, but nothing like the previous days pain. We got to the shelter around 4, and since we were only .1 miles from a road we decided to order a pizza. An hour and a half later seven large pizzas showed up in the middle of the woods and not a slice was left over. Life is beautiful.
We walked down the .1 miles to the road and picked up a shuttle from Ron Haven to the Budget Inn. Franklin is a nice little town with a small main street. I split a room with Dan from Maryland (stayed at the Blood Mountain Cabins with him as well). There are tons of familiar and new thru hikers around town, and it is pretty nice to be able to sit down in an actual chair and drink some beer and swap stories. We hit up the local McDonald's dollar menu and then a Walmart for a resupply. In all it was a perfect day to rest my knee and take a "Nero" (almost a zero mileage day).
This morning I am going to catch the 11:00 shuttle back to Rock Gap and do 8 miles to Siler Bald Shelter. There are rumors of flurries tonight, but it looks like I should have pretty good weather the rest of the week. Also, I should be entering the Smokies in about six days! I'm not quite sure when I will have WiFi next, but I will try to update as soon as I can!