Start time: 5:05am
End time: 10:20pm
Jen drew 52 miles closer to Springer today over some really difficult terrain.
I drove her out to Stecoah Gap at 4:45am and she was hiking by 5. She reached the Nantahala Outdoor Center by 9:25, and was greeted there by Tiffany Shuler of Sylva and her 4-year-old daughter Makalyn. They’ve heard Jen speak two or three times throughout Western North Carolina and have become friends and fans. Makalyn brought Jen an AT picture book that she’d made. She spent most of the time splashing in the river while Tiffany chatted with Jen and took photos.
Anne Lundblad, who’s an accomplished train runner from Asheville, also met Jen at the NOC. She was excited to keep Jen company all day, and she did a fantastic job, hiking over 40 miles with her and carrying her snacks and juice water.
Jen and Anne had a really difficult 7.9-mile climb to Tellico Gap out of the Nantahala Gorge that they completed in only two hours and fifteen minutes. From there, they headed to Burningtown Gap and then on to Wayah Bald. They made the tower by 3:24. I was hoping to get some pictures of Jen at the summit, but I spent most of the pit stop looking for my cell phone, which had fallen out of my pocket at Burningtown Gap. Yorke offered to drive all the way back to look for it. It probably took him 45 minutes to get back there, and he found it right before it started raining.
From Wayah Bald, Jen and Anne got to Wayah Gap in a little over an hour. Yorke went into Franklin to find a hotel and pick up some chicken fingers at Zaxby’s. Mo and I also made a quick trip into town to check email and pick up a USB card reader from K-mart.
The girls arrived at Winding Stair Gap (U.S. 64) at 6:20 or so and were back on the trail by 6:35. 3.7 miles later, they reached Rock Gap and pressed on so they could make it over the really difficult stretch around Albert Mountain and get into Mooney Gap as early as possible.
They reached it at 10:20. After a couple of photos and hugs, Anne caught a ride back to the NOC with Yorke, and Jen ate the rest of her chicken fingers.
About 10 seconds after Yorke and Anne left, Carl Laniak pulled up in his blue minivan. Carl is a trail runner from Athens, Georgia. We’re psyched that he’s going to hike the last 96.4 miles with Jen. And 76.4 of those miles are in North Georgia, which Carl knows like the back of his hand.
We’re still hoping that Jen will reach Springer by 5:30pm on Sunday afternoon. On the second to last day of her 2008 record attempt, she hiked 65.4 miles. And because her goal has always been to do her best (not necessarily to break the record), she’s decided that she wants to do something similar tomorrow.
We’re going to watch her really closely to make sure she’s not at risk in any way. But this is Jen’s hike and she knows what she can and can’t do. Please continue to pray for her health and safety these final two days, and pray that all of us make the right decisions. Thanks!
Car update: The exterior of the car got four de facto baths in 30 hours from the rain showers and thunderstorms between Damascus and 19E. But we’ve had warm, sunny days since then and we’ve driven on lots of dirt roads so the Highlander has taken on that Manny Ramirez helmet look again.
As for the interior, it started emitting a ripe, pungent aroma just before we entered the Smokies. And it was really bizarre because it practically happened overnight. I think maybe one of Jen’s wet outfits got shoved under a seat or something. I could look for it, of course, but I’m too tired to care.