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  1. #1
    Registered User Lewis Clark's Avatar
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    Default Need advice for upcoming short trail hike Wayah Gap to Sassafras Gap. (NC/Tenn)

    I'm going on a 3 or 4 day out and back again hike. I'm either reading the wrong things or not paying attention, and am finding myself confused. Do shelters allow tent camping in the area around them? Do I need to register to use the trail if I'm only hiking a very tiny section of the trail? I noticed the Wayah Gap has a parking area. Can I leave my car there for several days, and is there a registration/fee for the privilege? I understand that if I leave my car, any damage is my responsibility because I'm the bloke that left it unattended.

    I'm not in the best of shape, but I've been walking a lot over the last year. I walk between 5 and ten miles every day. Last week I loaded my pack and walked 14 miles to the nearby state park. Made the hike in four hours. I live on the prairie, so the landscape is quite flat. Am I pushing it to expect 9 to 10 miles a day on the AT?

    This is my first trial run for when I plan to do a thru hike in the spring of 2021. I'll be doing a few more short hikes this summer and autumn, and longer ones next year. Thanks for any help you can give me. I'm going to be doing this hike about a week from today.

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    Please be more specific with your sassafras Gap location. Do you mean Sassafras shelter? I see you are doing an out and back. If you are not aware of the shuttle driver system, it allows hikers to travel twice as far as an out and back, getting to see twice as much trail for an insignificant cost.

    To answer your questions:

    Do shelters allow tent camping in the area around them?
    If there is room yes. GSMNP does not allow tenting for section hikers. Please do not set tent up inside shelter


    Do I need to register to use the trail if I'm only hiking a very tiny section of the trail?
    No, It is not requred to register, even if you are thru hiking. It does help build data to register but is not required in any means.(unless you are in 1 of the parks that require registering. GSMNP, SNP and Baxter SP)

    I noticed the Wayah Gap has a parking area. Can I leave my car there for several days, and is there a registration/fee for the privilege?
    No registration/ fee.


    I understand that if I leave my car, any damage is my responsibility because I'm the bloke that left it unattended.
    I would just clean my car out prior to leaving. Some people open glove box and center console to show people there is nothing of value inside.
    I use to have a laminated paper that read something like "Please dont break my window, there is nothing in here of value." But now days I just lock the door and get to walking.

    Am I pushing it to expect 9 to 10 miles a day on the AT?
    Everyone here will tell you that only you can decide that. I will say this. For your first day on trail, it would be safe to have 3 possible goals. A 4 mile, 8 mile and 12 mile goal. Give or take some. Your body will tell you that evening and the next morning if you made the right choice. When I am out on a 1-2 week trip and daily mileage isnt as important as a weekend trip I typically do not plan more then a day or 2 ahead. I just get up and walk till I am tired, and thats when I know its time to set the tent up.

    Some good links if you do not know of them are as follows:
    Guthooks App
    ATDistance calculator
    ATweather
    Rohlands parking guide

  3. #3
    Registered User Lewis Clark's Avatar
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    Thank you! Special thanks for the resources too. This time, my entire hike should be in the Nantahala National Park.

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    Registered User Lewis Clark's Avatar
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    I'm planning on turning back to Wayah Gap once I get to Sassafras Gap. Unless I get there earlier than I think I will. It's an average of 9.5 miles per day between Wayah and Sassafras, if I'm reading the map correctly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lewis Clark View Post
    I'm planning on turning back to Wayah Gap once I get to Sassafras Gap. Unless I get there earlier than I think I will. It's an average of 9.5 miles per day between Wayah and Sassafras, if I'm reading the map correctly.
    It is 24.3 miles from Wayah to Sassafras. That is a tough section down into NOC and Back out of it, and then to turn around and do it again.....yikes.

    To refer back to what I said earlier, I will always suggest for folks to walk twice as far and take a shuttle. You could do Wayah Bald to Fontana and challenge yourself on twice as much trail.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gambit McCrae View Post
    It is 24.3 miles from Wayah to Sassafras. That is a tough section down into NOC and Back out of it, and then to turn around and do it again.....yikes.

    To refer back to what I said earlier, I will always suggest for folks to walk twice as far and take a shuttle. You could do Wayah Bald to Fontana and challenge yourself on twice as much trail.
    Yea, that is a tough hike for someone out of shape. The climb out of NOC is a big one, and is often commented on - and not in a good way.

    Instead consider hiking from Franklin, NC to the NOC. That's a bit more reasonable section of trail, but will still be challenging. It will also be easy to arrange a shuttle between those two places.

    Why did you pick the section you did? Completely at random?
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

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    I just finished a 6 day hike from Dicks Creek Gap in Ga to the NOC, which includes Wayah gap. Wayah gap seemed to have a decent sized parking area. We didn't have any problem finding campsites away from shelters, and there were campsites around the shelters as well.

    It was a beautiful and fun hike, but the trail down to NOC would not be fun to go back up, which you would if you do an out and back. Also, as someone else said the hike north from NOC is no better. If you plan on hiking the whole thing, those sections obviously have to be done, but I'm not sure how morale would be affected while hiking that tough section around NOC and knowing you have to do it again before your hike is complete...just food for thought.

    There are quite a few shuttle drivers in that area, on average I've paid about $60 per shuttle.

    Enjoy your hike!!

  8. #8
    Registered User Lewis Clark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post

    Why did you pick the section you did? Completely at random?
    Pretty much random.

  9. #9
    Registered User Lewis Clark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gambit McCrae View Post
    It is 24.3 miles from Wayah to Sassafras. That is a tough section down into NOC and Back out of it, and then to turn around and do it again.....yikes.

    To refer back to what I said earlier, I will always suggest for folks to walk twice as far and take a shuttle. You could do Wayah Bald to Fontana and challenge yourself on twice as much trail.
    I just realized that I misstated where my start point is, but that only takes off about 5 miles. The map I have shows a parking lot at Wayah Bald, which is where I was planning on starting from, not Wayah Gap. I am figuring about 7 to 8 days to go from Wayah Bald to Sassafras Gap and back again. I could turn back at Rufus Morgan, or try to catch a shuttle at Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC?) back to Wayah Bald if I were concerned about time, but I'm retired and don't care too much. I'm happy as long as I don't leave a corpse on the trail.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lewis Clark View Post
    I just realized that I misstated where my start point is, but that only takes off about 5 miles. The map I have shows a parking lot at Wayah Bald, which is where I was planning on starting from, not Wayah Gap. I am figuring about 7 to 8 days to go from Wayah Bald to Sassafras Gap and back again. I could turn back at Rufus Morgan, or try to catch a shuttle at Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC?) back to Wayah Bald if I were concerned about time, but I'm retired and don't care too much. I'm happy as long as I don't leave a corpse on the trail.
    The mileage I provided is from Wayah Bald "parking" to Sassafras Shelter.

    Now everyone is different, which is why it makes a forum so difficult to answer questions about personal abilities. BUT, I would anticipate that you taking 8 days to 48.6 miles is going to be way, way on the low end..Especially if you are anticipating a thru hike in a year or so. If you have 8 days to hike, Pick an 80-100 mile stretch and go for it. Have a shuttle driver contacted that you can call/ text when you are close to being done that can take you back to your car.

  11. #11
    Registered User Lewis Clark's Avatar
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    Thank you! This is one of those things that is tough to do until you do it. Experience is a great teacher, and the experience of others is a real gift!

  12. #12

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    I definitely agree that arranging a shuttle is the way to go!
    My experience is that I don't like the stress of having to be at the pickup point at a certain time, a week away. Lots can happen on a hike, and I can be a day early or a day late. After my first couple section hikes, I started arranging a shuttle ride at the beginning of my hike. Then I can hike toward my vehicle and get there whenever I get there. Less stressful. I'm all about the least amount of stress when I'm hiking.

    *edit* and I agree that the hike down into the NOC and the hike back out of the NOC, in either direction, is not something that I'd want to do twice in one week.

  13. #13
    Registered User Lewis Clark's Avatar
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    Well, I got my backside handed to me on the trail. I learned a lot, and that is precious knowledge, but what a hit to the ego! My boots fit fine for the flat walking of SW Minnesota, but are horrible for using going up and down steep inclines, over rocks and roots and such. Met some nice folks on the trail that gave sage advice. Considering weather (rain every day of my planned hike), wet sleeping bag, ill fitting boots, too much weight in my pack (or lack of fitness) I decided to turn back after my first night. I'll be trying the Superior trail later this year, but this time not alone, and with better planning. AT. I will be back.

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    That's the beauty behind doing an out and back! Nothing gets you into trail shape better than hiking the trail. You just have to start out slowly and accept the fact that the first few days will be tough.

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    I'm glad you gave us an update! Sounds like a tough trip, but you seem to have learned a lot that will make the next hike better.

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    No better teacher than first hand experience. Good job on getting out there and learning.
    Out of curiosity, did any of the input from folks on here resonate while on your hike?
    Should more effort have been put into footwear rather than logistics?
    How did your sleeping bag get wet? While in the pack? What was your shelter choice?

    FWIW, separating the whites this year from my statement, logistics once on trail have always come second priority to my feet and gear. The trail will always allow me walk it, if I am able. It sounds like you will be looking for a new footwear option and peoples response on here is: "everyone's feet are different". And that is true to a point however I would say that if you only had 5 styles of shoe of all needed sizes, pretty much everyone would be able to find 1 of the 5 that fit them well. I would suggest getting out of the boot department and head over tot eh shoe department. If you have a square foot (on the toe end of things) you may want to try Altras. I haven't met anyone(out of hundreds of people) that didn't enjoy their Altras. I have personally gone with the Lone Peaks and am now on my 5th pair. They work for me and i am very thankful for them.
    Last edited by Gambit McCrae; 06-20-2019 at 10:22.

  17. #17
    Registered User Lewis Clark's Avatar
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    Out of curiosity, did any of the input from folks on here resonate while on your hike?

    In short, yes, but I am a stubborn old fart and had a plan in mind. I wish I had been more flexible in my approach and taken the suggestion many of you gave me. I should have adjusted my route to an easier section. I also should have walked for distance rather than a there and back again approach. It was a moot point anyway, my boots were not fitting well enough to have made it to the next point past Wayah shelter much less NOC. This Fall I am going to do part of the Superior Trail Hike. I plan on using a shuttle to get me back to whatever trail head I start at.

    Should more effort have been put into footwear rather than logistics?

    For a new hiker, I think there is so much to learn that logistics are nearly equally important. Failure in either can badly hurt or even kill you. One of my big lessons was that I'm a crappy map reader, and I didn't have a trail map app.

    How did your sleeping bag get wet? While in the pack? What was your shelter choice?

    The bag didn't get soaking wet, though it felt like it at the time. The rain fly on my REI Half-Dome tent has about a 4 inch gap between it's edge and the ground. All of the sites for tenting are on bare dirt. I think all of the leaves have been scooped up for use in the privy. When it rained, and it rained hard, the water splashed up from under the rain fly in through the tent screens. I could pack a large, light weight tarp and cordage to improvise a larger rain fly. (yay! More weight!) The pack I'm using is a 90L +20L Terra Peak. I've also learned that it is critical to get the fit of the pack dialed in before the hike! It's hard to make adjustments when you're miserable and impatient.

    If you have a square foot (on the toe end of things) you may want to try Altras. I haven't met anyone(out of hundreds of people) that didn't enjoy their Altras.

    Do you get the low rise version, or the high-tops? I'll have to look into finding a dealer near me. I hate getting shoes on the internet, but it can be done if you don't mind returning things frequently.

    I have to agree that logistics will become secondary as my skills build. Gear, and especially shoes, will become the important things. Mobility and water can probably get you out of 90% (imaginary statistic) of all situations you're likely to face.

    Thanks to everyone for your help!

  18. #18
    Registered User LittleRock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lewis Clark View Post
    I also should have walked for distance rather than a there and back again approach.The bag didn't get soaking wet, though it felt like it at the time. The rain fly on my REI Half-Dome tent has about a 4 inch gap between it's edge and the ground.
    Looks like you learned some good lessons.

    One, "out and back" makes it too easy to bail after the first day. Hiking one way makes it hard enough that you will "embrace the suck" unless you are in real danger.

    Two, REI tents aren't really backpacking tents.

    Three, proper footwear is one of your most important pieces of gear.
    It's all good in the woods.

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    Tarptent.com = Dry stuff at an affordable price

  20. #20
    Registered User Lewis Clark's Avatar
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    "out and back" makes it too easy to bail after the first day. Hiking one way makes it hard enough that you will "embrace the suck" unless you are in real danger.

    I think I would have turned back regardless because of the shoes, but you point is totally true. A lot of life purely sucks, yet we just keep pounding away. When you don't have to continue, it's easy to just give up.

    REI tents aren't really backpacking tents.

    My wife is going to really be happy when I by another tent! Do you have a suggestion on who makes a good backpacking tent? I'm assuming that I should select one that uses my hiking poles as tent poles?

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