Day 40, 4/9/15
Start: Erwin, TN
Finish: Curley Maple Gap Shelter
Miles Hiked: 4.3
Miles To Go: 1842
Overall Miles Hiked: 347.2
I awoke to blue skies and took Mike up on his work-for-stay offer. In between his house and chicken coop is a section of woods much lower than the surrounding land. He has a small tractor that has a hard time going up and down the steep trail leading into and out of the bowl and wanted me to construct a crude ramp made out of old firewood and mulch. I put one layer of wood down and then would cover it in a layer of mulch. After a few layers, the ramp was complete and turned out pretty good considering what I was using for building materials. It took me three hours, but I was able to pay off my stay!
Back at the trailhead, I got word that Billy Goat left the trail for a few days to find beer, pizza and girls; probably in that order too! He was going to try and meet back up with the group in a few days. I left Erwin with Click, Pie, Just Matt, No Hat and Blade. Just Matt and No Hat are section hiking and will be leaving the trail in one week to go back home.
I’ve met several hikers on the A.T. from other countries, all here on 6 month travel visas and are spending their time “seeing America” on the A.T. Big Bear is from Australia and loves American Whiskey. Blade is from Germany and really loves knives, seriously – American knives, German knives, whatever. If it is sharp, he wants it. Earth is also from Germany and says the A.T. is boring and filled with too many trees! Salty and Chanty are a married couple from Switzerland and are having a great time. They say the best part of the trail is just talking to other hikers. Pie is from England, he has been to the U.S. a few times and even spent a week in New Orleans. Amazingly, he is one of the only hikers to know what a PoBoy is! We got on the trail around 4:00PM and walked to the next shelter, Curley Maple Gap, setup camp and awaited the rain.
Day 41, 4/10/15
Start: Curley Maple Gap Shelter
Finish: Greasy Creek Hostel
Miles Hiked: 20
Miles To Go: 1822
Overall Miles Hiked: 367.2
We awoke to light rain and took our time getting ready. There are many different thoughts on rain gear among hikers. Some wear just the top and others, just the bottom. A lot of hikers refuse to wear any rain gear at all. The biggest complaint is that many hikers sweat heavily while hiking in rain gear and end up soaked whether they wear it or not. Unfortunately, I’ve have this problem as well, but my rain gear comes with a lot of venting zippers. Although I still sweat while wearing my gear, I don’t have it as bad as some hikers.
Just 4 miles in, we were treated to some trail magic from Brother Tom. Everyday from March 1st to sometime in May, Brother Tom comes to Indian Grave Gap and offers fresh fruit, juice, soda, cheese and crackers and sweet treats to passing hikers. Thanks, Brother Tom!
Our hike for the day would be taking us over Unaka Mountain and its dense spruce forest. It was an eerie hike in the spruce because it was extremely thick in the canopy, but pretty open underneath making it quiet and dark. It was also harder to follow the trail because there was no discernible path due to all the spruce needles on the ground. For hikers up there during foggy weather, special attention needs to be given in locating the white blazes or one could be easily become lost.
Today was Click’s birthday, so we decided to hike to a hostel close to the A.T. to celebrate. After walking 20 miles the idea of going another .6 along a steep and rocky downhill was not the easiest sell, but real food, showers and beer for the birthday boy seemed worth it. Well, it was worth it as I was treated to the most amazing $5 double bacon cheeseburger on the planet. I also ordered chicken fingers with fries and an Oreo shake. Connie at the Greasy Creek Friendly is an amazing host and will do anything she can for her hiking guests. I definitely recommend staying here to any future thruhikers. Pie, Blade, Just Matt, No Hat, Connie and myself sang “Happy Birthday” to Click, had a few drinks and then turned in.
Day 42, 4/11/15
Start: Greasy Creek Hostel
Finish: Overmountain Shelter
Miles Hiked: 17.4
Miles To Go: 1804.6
Overall Miles Hiked: 384.6
We thanked Connie once more and then hiked the .6 miles back to the A.T. The rainy weather from the day before had given way to clear skies and cooler temps. Hiking was much easier in these conditions and before long we stood at the base of Roan Mountain. Roan’s elevation is 6,212 ft. making it the second highest peak on the A.T. All we had to do was ascend 2,200 ft. I was the slowest in the group as it took me nearly 3 hours of constant climbing to reach the top of the mountain and Roan High Knob Shelter. This shelter is the highest on the A.T. and was currently being occupied by my cohorts as they ate lunch.
We still had another 7 miles to hike and it was getting late. I really wanted to press on so I wouldn’t have to hike in the dark, but I forced myself to eat a quick lunch. We left the shelter and headed down into Carvers Gap. The parking lot in the Gap was nearly full as day hikers climbed up and down the balds there to take in the 360º views. If I ever make it back this way, I will make a point to stop at Carvers Gap as if offered some of the best views on the A.T. so far.
After stopping several times to soak it all in, I got back in hiker mode and crushed the remaining miles to arrive at Overmountain Shelter just before dark. This shelter is the most popular on the entire trail. The shelter is actually an old barn and was even featured in the movie The Patriot. The barn is huge and could probably fit 40 hikers. Tonight, there are about 20 hikers in the barn and another 20, including myself, camped outside. The fire was inviting so I sat down with several hikers and traded war stories and dumb jokes. After laughing for a few hours, it was time for bed.
Day 43, 4/12/15
Start: Overmountain Shelter
Finish: Roan Mountain, TN
Miles Hiked: 9.2
Miles To Go: 1795.9
Overall Miles Hiked: 393.8
The temperature dropped several degrees overnight and after two days of 80º hiking, I looked forward to the change. What I didn’t know was that the wind on the top of the two balds I had to cross was blowing even harder than it was at Max Patch a few weeks ago. Hikers were literally being blown a step or two off trail as they tried to negotiate the steep path. The two balds were Little Hump Mountain and Hump Mountain and both were void of all trees allowing hikers to see everyone in front and behind them for several hundred yards. On the top of the second bald were some big boulders that allowed a reprieve from the wind. I stopped there to take a few pictures and eat a granola bar of the chewy and chocolate variety.
About halfway down the second bald was the last border between North Carolina and Tennessee, we had been crisscrossing between these two states a dozen times or so and now only had 75 miles left in Tennessee before reaching Virginia. The farther down from the top of Hump Mountain we hiked, the less wind we had to contend with. By the time we reached the highway to Roan Mountain, TN, the weather was absolutely amazing and we decided to get a hitch into town to celebrate our near 400 mile achievement and to resupply. It was my first attempt at hitchhiking, but only minutes after sticking up my thumb at passing cars, a truck pulled over and offered us a ride. The first stop was Bob’s Dairyland where I ordered a double bacon cheeseburger and a chocolate shake – this seems to be my order of choice when arriving in town! After inhaling our food, we walked over to Dollar General to resupply. I was getting really sick of Pasta Sides and Ramen so I decided to try a few new items. I purchased a block of Pepper Jack cheese, tortillas, and salami in hopes of making some kind of cheesy burrito thing. I was told the cheese would keep for a week or so – we will see! Our next and final spot was Mountain Harbour Hiker Hostel where I got a cheap bunk for the night.
It was still early so we decided to make a fire. As the hours passed, hiker after hiker trickled in, including Car Bomb, Made It, Blazer and Hula, and they all joined in the circle. The weather was forecasted to deteriorate overnight and rain for the next 5 days so we took advantage of our last good night and went to bed around 11:00, which is super late as far as hikers are concerned.