It was cold this morning, and we were all kind of lethargic getting going, but we all eventually managed to escape from the cocoon of our sleeping bags and turn into the beautiful trail butterflies we were meant to be.
Today's short hike to the Nantahala Outdoor Center was, as expected, mostly downhill, and actually easier than I was led to believe. There was the occasional mini-rock scramble, but it was otherwise smooth sailing down the trail.
We got to NOC early, around 11:30, and Loon, Verge, Beast, Mister President, Spicy, and I grabbed lunch at the restaurant there. (I got a cheeseburger. It was good, but not as awesome as the burgers at Motor Company in Franklin.
Mister President unfortunately had to retire to the White House, a foot injury growing to the point where he could no longer continue on the trail. Instead, he and his girlfriend will take a road trip to tour the country.
Loon and Verge had a food package sent to NOC, but while it was waiting, mice unfortunately got into one of their food bags. NOC was kind enough to replace some of their spoiled food (I think, mostly just their trail mix) with snack bars, so they fortunately wound up not loosing too much in the end.
Beast arranged for a room in a "cabin" here at NOC, where he and I are staying the night. I say cabin, but it's really very nice compared to the shelters we've stayed at. Surrounding a large common area, individual rooms hold two or more people each, with sinks, and each set of rooms has a bathroom and shower. It's really very nice.
To get to the cabins, and also continue along the AT from the main part of NOC requires walking across a set of active train tracks. (Amusing, since there's a sign warning against trespassing on the active railroad tracks. I suspect this will not be an isolated incident.)
For a few hours, we hosted Loon, Verge, Sweets, and Geo so they could shower and use the laundry. Beast and I grabbed some beer and wine (and pizza) from the store and restaurant, and proceeded to drink directly from the bottle because there were no cups in the cabin. Loon and Verge left to continue on to a campsite a few miles further up the trail; Sweets and Geo also left to rejoin their groups.
Because there's only a few major manufacturers of lightweight hiking equipment, Beast and I use a considerable amount of the same equipment (dry sacks, water filter, toothbrush, etc). A bit of a running joke the last few days has been a general confusion over which piece of equipment belongs to each of us. This seems to have all culminated to the most absurd level possible when we made the practical decision to do our laundry in one batch, because we each only have two "days" worth of outfits.
"uhh... We're not wearing the same type of underwear, are we?"
"What size do you wear?"
"...Which of these two green ones is mine?"