Wayah Gap to Sassafras Gap Shelter

Day 1:

  • Wayah Gap to Wesser Bald Shelter
  • Distance: 15.7 miles
  • Start: 9:40 AM
  • Finish: 6:30 PM (?)
  • Beginning Pack Weight: 20.2 lbs

WARNING: Distances/Elevations are farther/higher than they appear!

Gizmo Joe and I began our hike Thursday am at Wayah Gap around 9:40 am. We began at an elevation of 4,180 feet and our destination was 15.7 miles off in the distance (not that we could see it due to all the high peaks between the 2 points). Our goal was Wesser Bald Shelter, sitting pretty at 4,100 feet…and yes…we passed 2 shelters on the way to this one…

Gizmo Joe & Stick...ready to go!

This was our biggest day of the hike. The remaining days were fewer miles, and not as many climbs. So, we were ready to get started on this one so we could finish it up!

We hit some rain on the drive up, which at this time we were expecting rain each and every day that we would be out…we had no plans of staying dry. However, we somehow managed to drive right through the shower and out the other side! When we arrived at the trail head the ground was a little wet, but that was it.

So, we headed off. Despite the 2-3 hours of sleep we each had the night before, we were fresh, our bellies were full from eating at Hardee’s and we were excited to get going and see what the trail had to offer, as well as how well our pretty new gear would do!

The climb up Wayah Bald was tough but we were still fresh and ready to go. Of course though, being the first part of the hike, I did find myself a little winded at times…  🙂  Once we arrived we met our first surprise, but it was a good surprise. There is an old look-out tower at the top of the bald that offers great views. We also met 3 thru-hikers at the tower.

After a short break we knew we still had a long day ahead of us, so we said good-bye to the thru’s and then headed on down the trail.

When looking at my map, there was not a water source marked at our destination for the night, Wesser Bald Shelter. So, we decided that we would load up on our water once we arrived at Cold Spring Shelter and just tote the water with us the remaining 5.8 miles of the hike.

When we arrived at Cold Spring Shelter we stopped and had a small lunch break. The shelter was quite literally right on the trail, but luckily enough, so was the water! And there was a nice little section of PVC pipe to make filling our water bottles even easier! Sweet.

However, once again, we still anticipated a bit of a long hike, only now we had filled all of our water bottles to their brims! So, we hauled our packs back on and then took off yet again.

Our last climb of the day, about 775 feet up Wesser Bald, ended with another grand view. There is another tower on top of the Bald which offers a complete 360 degree view. It was beautiful! However, it was now 5:45 pm and we still had a little ways to go…so after another quick snack we hiked on down another 0.8 miles to our destination for the night.

When we arrived, we found that there was a nice little stream about 0.1 miles up from the campsite, so we lugged all that water for nothing! But, now it was too late to matter, and it was starting to get dark. So, we quickly scoped out the flattest looking spot and we set up our beloved ZPacks Hexamid’s!

There was another couple (section-hikers) with 2 large dogs (on leashes) with a tent set up right around from us. There was a thru-hiker with a hammock set-up across from us, and then there were 3 young thru-hikers in the shelter back in the distance. We briefly spoke with all but the 3 young thru’s as we arranged camp.

We moved quickly though. We pulled out our stove kits and got our water going. We grabbed our headlamps and pushed on. Then the rain came… but I still had to rehydrate my food (Hawk Vittles Hot Italian Sausage & Pasta) and then clean everything, pack it back up in my food bag and then hang it!

So, I said a quick little prayer and the rain stopped…momentarily…by the time I was scooping the very last bite of my dinner into my mouth though the rain started back. This time though the rain continued and got a little harder. So, I scurried around and quickly cleaned, packed my food bag and hung it and by 8:10 pm I had scampered into my tent!

The rain came down most of the night, well at least until about 3 am. Around 10 pm though the wind picked up a little and the rain came harder. I ended up with some misting inside my tent, but dared not to go out and lower the tent down. So, I turned back over and went on back to sleep.

Day 2:

  • Wesser Bald Shelter to Sassafras Gap Shelter
  • Distance: 12.6 miles
  • Start: 8:10 AM
  • Finish: 5:02 PM
  • Beginning Pack Weight: About 17.5 lbs

6:30 the next morning came early, but that was ok. We were heading to the NOC to clean up a little, grab a burger and to meet some more friends! After we had both drug ourselves from our tents and got woke up we started breaking camp. We decided that we were not going to cook our intended breakfast but rather eat a bar and get started…after all, we heard that the NOC had some really great burgers and fries!

The hike out was a pretty easy hike, only 5.7 miles and a steep 2,400 feet down! About a mile and a half we came to an awesome view at Jump-Up Lookout.

Shortly after this I decided that I would do a little trot down a steep section of the trail…you know…going with the flow…of course though this only lasted a moment and then I was on my backside sliding down…no injuries though!

We made it down to the NOC around 11 am. Once we found my buddy and his gf (Hiking Shoes & FireStarter) Joe and I hit up the Rivers End Restaurant for a burger, fries and a beer. It was good, that is all I got to say…it was so good… 🙂

After taking a quick sink bath and then eating we went through our packs. We pulled out some of our wet gear and attempted to dry them out somewhat. Once we put our packs back together we went and checked out the Outfitter shop. (I can happily say that there was nothing that I felt like I “needed”…I am that happy with my kit!)

Just before 1 pm we all gathered on the south side of the river for a quick group photo and then set out to climb the 6 mile, 3,000 foot climb up to Swim Bald.

Although, Swim Bald was not our destination, but rather Sassafras Gap Shelter, 0.9 miles on the other side of Swim Bald was our destination for the night.

We walked across the bridge crossing over the river at the NOC at 1:02 pm. At 4:42 pm I found myself standing on top of Swim Bald, and then at 5:02 I was standing inside Sassafras Gap Shelter. When I arrived there was already another hiker curled up inside his sleeping bag on the upper deck of the shelter. I briefly spoke with him and then started unpacking my pack. After walking around the shelter I came to the conclusion that their was not any good spots to set up our tents so I decided to spend the night in the shelter.

About 30 minutes later Gizmo Joe had arrived, however, Hiking Shoes & FireStarter were still a little ways behind. Shortly after Joe arrived, another section hiker came in and told us that he had met Hiking Shoes & FireStarter a ways back. He was also expecting a friend to be coming along but probably wouldn’t make it until dark.

In the mean time Joe and I had struck up a conversation with the fellow that was already at the shelter when I had arrived. Come to find out, his name was Travellin’ Willy and he was on his 2nd thru-hike, so naturally we spent a good deal of time picking his brain. He told us of how a 2nd and 3rd grade class was keeping up with him on his hike this time around via Twitter and weekly detailed updates. Needless to say, we very much enjoyed talking with Travellin’ Willy.

Just before dark, the other guy’s friend came rolling in. He informed us that he too had come across Hiking Shoes & FireStarter, still a ways back. He also told us that they were talking about possibly pitching a tent on the other side of Swim Bald for the night…

The night came along and a red moon came up out of the distance. The temperatures had dropped considerably from earlier that day (high of about 65 F and now we were around 35 F). Since Joe and I had arrived well before dark we had plenty of time this time to cook our food, clean up, and even to throw a bear line. So, as we sat there once dark came we discussed our future plans.

We decided that the next morning instead of carrying on towards our goal that we would backtrack instead to find Hiking Shoes & FireStarter. Also, we decided that if we did not meet them by the time we got back to the top of Swim Bald we would call (while we knew we still had service) and have our ride meet us at the NOC that day instead of at Fontana the next day.

The next morning rolled around and we got a little earlier start in hopes of coming across Hiking Shoes & FireStarter soon. So, after breakfast and repacking we headed out around 7:30 am. We made it to the top of Swim Bald pretty quickly and did not come across our friends. So, we made the call to reschedule our pick up at the NOC and then continued on down.

Just over another mile down the mountain towards the NOC we came across Hiking Shoes & FireStarter just as they were throwing their packs on. Sure enough they had set-up their camp at a nice little spot on the side of the trail. FireStarter’s knee had been giving her problems so they decided to stop and set-up camp once it started getting dark rather than pushing on to the shelter.

So, Gizmo Joe and I hiked along with Hiking Shoes & FireStarter for a while. The sun was back out so the views were outstanding! Of course too, the temperature was on the rise again…

Hiking Shoes & Gizmo Joe

Me & Gizmo Joe

On the hike down we met a lot of thru-hikers, some that Joe and I had very briefly met our first night at Wesser Bald Shelter. To name a few, we met a woman named “Yogi” who has already hiked the PCT 3 times and has written guides for the PCT, and is now hiking the AT for the 2nd time. Unfortunately, we did not realize this when we met her, it was another hiker by the name of “Buckets” that we met shortly afterwards that informed us of this.

A little ways farther we came across 2 of the younger thru’s that were at the Wesser Bald Shelter on our first night too, however, all I can remember is that one of the brother’s name was Matthew and he was wearing a “VT” hat and carrying a small guitar on his hike. (I saw him playing it the first night at Wesser when I walked by him on the way to the potty…)

We also came across Plus3. We actually saw Plus3 at the very beginning of our hike at Wayah Gap. As Gizmo Joe and I were pulling up and getting out and getting our packs loaded up he was sitting on the steps eating a snack. Then when we turned around to hike out he was already gone. We had met him again on the trail later that first day (he passed us) and then I met him again when we pulled into the shelter that first night. The next morning as he was hiking out he told us that he was hiking 6 miles to the NOC and then going back to sleep.

So, on our hike out we met him again. This time we talked a little longer and I got him on video. He seemed like a nice guy that was out there enjoying his hike. He seemed to be in good spirits actually each time we saw him. Before we parted I gave him my Sweet Italian Sausage & Pasta meal from Hawk Vittles (I didn’t need it since I was heading out…but I hated giving that one away…it is my favorite…)

About 11:35 am we were still a little north of Wright Gap (which is another 1.6 miles to the NOC), so we had to part ways with Hiking Shoes & FireStarter again so that we could make it to the NOC in time to meet our ride which we told to be there at noon. FireStarter’s knees were still giving her some troubles so they were taking their time so she didn’t hurt them anymore. So, Gizmo Joe and I said goodbye and then took off.

By 12:15 we were walking towards the bridge at the NOC. By 12:30 we were packing away another delicious burger and fries at the River’s End Restaurant. And this is where our trip came to an end…for now…

For all the pictures of the trip, click here. Also, here is a video mash of the trip. The end of the video is the short “interview” with Plus3.

So, that’s it. Thanks for reading!


About Stick

My blog is essentially a record of my hiking career. Through it, I, and others, can see how I have evolved from a heavy weight backpacker, to a smarter, more efficient, lightweight backpacker. Through the use of video, still photos, and of course writing, one can see my progression, as well as check out some of the places I hike, and not to mention some cool, lightweight gear options. For me, my blog is a journal, but for others, I hope that it is an interactive learning tool to aid them in their own progression towards lightweight backpacking.
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20 Responses to Wayah Gap to Sassafras Gap Shelter

  1. jessesleeper says:

    Hey Stick,

    You mentioned you had a small issue with overnight rain spray coming off the hard ground. You said you had not experienced it when set up on grassy areas. I was wondering if you had experienced it again and if you found a way to mitigate it.?
    Are you able to tight up the ground sheet to deepen the tub effect? I was considering getting the Plus size ground sheet with the Hexamid Solo (non-Plus) in an effort to deal with that issue.



    • Stick says:


      I have not used it in the rain since then. In the grass though there is not as much splash effect as there is when the rain is rolling off the tent onto hard packed ground, which creates more splash. For this reason, I will look for a more grassy area to set the tent up on when I am expecting rain. However, the problem with setting up on a grassy area is that you are more prone to have condensation inside the tent. However, I compare this tent to a tarp in terms of wind blowing through, and with my high ceiling, I am not really worried as much about condensation. Besides, I am in no way near the wall at the head or foot end so I am not worried about rubbing against a wet wall.

      With the ground sheet I can pull the sheet up on the front side to create a rather high wall which should protect me from splash. That night though I had all of my stuff inside with me and set on the ground sheet around me so I could not get as much lift with it. Of course during the warmer months I will not have as much “extra” stuff so it should not be as much of a problem.

      Part of my problem that night was that I set up kinda in a hurry and maybe pitched the tent to high to begin with. I was also on a slight slope which did not necessarily help either. Plus, in my rush I didn’t really have time to get organized the way I should have. Although, this is the way it happens sometimes, so these are great learning lessons. And to be honest, it was not enough spray to wet out my bag or anything. To be honest, after I realized I was getting a little spray and I laid back down I smiled. Sometimes it is fun when things don’t go perfectly as planned… 🙂

      Hope that this helps.



    • jessesleeper says:

      Big help, thanks.


  2. When I saw the opening picture I thought “is that a TNF verto jacket I spy?” Then I remembered watching your video review on it. Another gear similarity we have 🙂

    Great write up. I can’t wait to get to that part of the trail. Heck, I can’t wait to see the whole thing! Thanks for the video too. It’s things like these that have kept me from going insane in the months I’ve been waiting for my thru.



    • Stick says:


      I have got to admit that I was very hesitant to the point of not really wanting to waste my time, money or weight on a wind jacket, but after using it I have become pretty happy with it. I am really debating on using it in the dead of summer as my “rain” shell… 🙂

      Man, I gotta say, I am super jealous. I wish I were doing a thru hike… Good luck to ya man! I know that you are stoked and ready to go though… Have a great hike man.



  3. m Wallace says:

    We need more Gizmo Joe. Great video. Looks like fun.


    • Stick says:


      Yep…we were planning that 3rd day to be our lay around and compare gear day, as well as do more video, but then plans changed…I look forward to getting out with Gizmo Joe on some more hikes though. He is a great guy, and we both share the same “UL” thoughts!

      Thanks for stopping by!



  4. Jesse says:

    Never seen the pipe thing before, interesting. Great video! Cool thing catching thru hikers. Noticed Dogwood (never heard of them) from your videos and just downloaded some from Zune Markgetplace, cool tunes.


    • Stick says:


      Yea, I am always happy to roll up and see a little pipe in the stream. It makes it so much easier to catch water in the smaller mouth bottles (such as I carry and use). But, I am actually used to coming up on these at listed water sources than not. Especially at the shelters. However, there have been a few times that they were not present too…

      My buddy, Gizmo Joe, was trying to think up a dual use for a small piece of pipe for those instances in which we came upon a stream without a pipe…he is thinking a pole repair sleeves would work (for either trekking poles or tent poles…which ever you may be carrying…) It is not a bad idea…

      Glad to hear that you liked the Dogwood tunes too…

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!



  5. Gizmo Joe says:

    Awesome post……


  6. Jim Henegar says:

    Cool report, thanks for sharing your thru hiker, he seem pretty cool. Bet those burgers were awesome.


    • Stick says:

      Thanks Jim for stopping by and checking it out. Plus3 was a pretty cool guy and I have a feeling that he will make it through it. And yes, those burgers were awesome… 🙂


  7. Enjoyed it. Just a thought -use the baggie you keep your water treatment in to grab water and dump it into your bottle. It will save you the hassle of contorting the bottle under water sources that have little room. Then you can pour the baggie water into your bottle and you can make an effort to pre filter the water through a nylon bag, nylon stockings or whatever now that you have more room to maneuver.


    • Stick says:


      Thanks for stopping by. Actually, I have used a different bag to collect water in and pour it in the Platy. Of course though, that has been from small puddles…I love these streams that we come upon though with the pipes…it makes it so much easier…



  8. Me and my “crew” did Fontana SOBO to Standing Indian a year ago. This time of year, I recommend walking against the thrus so you can meet them all. Great trip report. Oh, BTW, one of my buddies is gonna be working out of Alabama for a few months, and I’m looking at a hike in Miss. 2 days. Any good ideas?


    • Stick says:


      I agree, it turned out nice when we turned around because we met the thru hikers and got to talk with them for a minute. (Who doesn’t mind stopping for a minute on a 6 mile climb uphill?)

      As far as a hike in MS…there is not many I know of and can really recommend. If you are going to be in Alabama though you should check out Sipsey Wilderness. That is a nice area with some good hiking.

      Thanks for stopping by!



  9. Awesome to hear you guys had a sweet trip!!

    You meet Yogi and did not get a picture — shame on you guys!!


    • Stick says:

      I know man…but in my defense I did not know. We met a hiker named Buckets about 2 minutes behind her that told us about her…That would definitely be cool though to be thru’ing with someone like her…


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