Prologue: The Fall
On Thursday, November 7th, just after 4:00am in the Nantahala National Forest of North Carolina, I climbed my way up a steep, rocky trail to the top of Albert Mountain. It was cold, dark, and the wind was howling. My headlamp and the flashlight I was carrying lit the way, though I could only ever really see a few feet in front of me since the trail, essentially made up of giant rock steps, was so steep. When I reached the summit I shined my lights on the legs of the fire tower rising up before me. In daylight there would be a fantastic, sweeping view of the forested landscape to take in, but all I could see was dark and mist. I couldn’t linger long anyway; I’d planned to travel north as far as I could until the weather turned bad, which it was predicted to do later that morning.