At the outset of our journey, I was only worried about one thing: making it through a complex section of the loop before it got dark. In particular, I’d heard that finding the trail again after the final road section was tough even in the daylight.
The loop was the Nantahala Adventure Run near Bryson City, NC: 56ish miles comprised mostly of the Bartram Trail but beginning and ending on the AT. Total vertical gain for the loop ended up being a stout 14k feet. Our plan was to cover as much of it as we could take the first day, bivy for a few hours, and then finish it up the following day. We parked our campervan at Nantahala Outdoor Center, a fantastic outfitter that caters to both the river community and hikers on the AT.