Days 32 – 35 (4/1/15 – 4/4/15)

Day 32, 4/1/15

Start: Roaring Fork Shelter
Finish: Hot Springs, NC
Miles Hiked: 18.4
Miles To Go: 1914.4
Overall Miles Hiked: 274.8

After pulling 18+ miles yesterday, I woke up pretty sore and although the trail was mostly downhill, it was hard to get going. After yawning my way down 6 miles of trail, I stopped to eat lunch at Walnut Mountain Shelter. There were a few hikers already there who I camped with the night before and one of them was Lonestar. Apparently, 3 miles back he had seen a bear and as soon as the bear saw him it bolted. Although it is April Fools Day, we believed him. The weather has warmed up quite a bit and we expect that the bears will finally start moving after a cold winter. I hiked with Lonestar most of the day. He got out of the military after 5 years of service in February and started the A.T. a month later to try to figure out what’s next. We exchanged stories, which helped pass the time and before we knew it we were looking down the mountain at Hot Springs, North Carolina. The trail literally goes down Spring Creek St., the heart of town, for about a mile. It will be one of the only true flat walks we will have. Hot Springs’ unofficial motto is “Where Mayberry meets the Twilight Zone.” Hippies, river guides and mountain millionaires rub elbows at either of the two taverns while little old ladies offer fresh baked cookies to starving hikers. Famous for its natural spring waters and the healing properties they offer, Hot Springs draws hikers and tourists alike. In fact, many hikers leave the trail here to find work and become part of this community. While I share no such aspirations, I certainly see the attraction. Billy Goat, Lonestar and I checked into Elmers Sunnybank Inn. This hostel opened in 1947 and housed the famous Earl Shaffer in 1948 and again, 50 years later in 1998. Shaffer was the first documented A.T. thruhiker, he hiked the A.T. 3 times and from both directions. He was 79 on his last trip. The hostel is now run by Elmer Hall, who for over three decades has housed thousands of hikers and has cooked breakfast or dinner for nearly all of them. Hikers are free to come and go as they please…as long as they leave their boots outside! After two very long days, we turned in.

Snake crossing the A.T.

Snake crossing the A.T.

Elmer Hall, Elmers Sunnyside Inn

Elmer Hall, Elmers Sunnyside Inn

Elmers Sunnyside Inn

Elmers Sunnyside Inn


Day 33, 4/2/15
Start: Hot Springs, NC
Finish: Hot Springs, NC
Miles Hiked: 0
Miles To Go: 1914.4
Overall Miles Hiked: 274.8

We took a zero today. I walked over to Laughing Heart Hostel just down the street and retrieved two packages I had waiting for me. The first was from my brother and sister-in-law. The package contained a few high energy bars and a box of Nerds. I’m saving the bars for another day, but could have used them theses past few days for sure. The Nerds…well, I think I’ll have to pass those along to another hiker. (Don’t worry, this is an inside joke.) Along with the snacks was a typed letter, which brought tears to my eyes and gave me a few laughs. Thanks, Zack & Krista! The other package was from Leigh and contained several food items I needed to resupply. There were also two envelopes, one from my parents and another from Leigh. My parents gave me some much needed cash and praise, thanks Mom & Dad! The envelope from Leigh only strengthen the reason I married her and again brought tears to my eyes. In my defense, it was pretty windy this morning and it could have just been sand in my eye! After packing up my resupply items, I walked over to the Spring Creek Tavern and ate a hamburger while watching two guys fly fish in the creek below. Several rainbow trout were caught and quickly released; it was extremely relaxing and I didn’t move from my spot in the tavern for most of the day. Before bed, we were treated to an open mic night at the hostel as several hikers played their music and read poetry. I sat this one out!

My view from Spring Creek Tavern

My view from Spring Creek Tavern


Day 34, 4/3/15
Start: Hot Springs, NC
Finish: Lovers Leap Rock
Miles Hiked: 0.9
Miles To Go: 1913.5
Overall Miles Hiked: 275.7

Due to a miscommunication between my wife and I, which was 100% all my fault, I wasn’t able to leave town until 3:00PM. I needed to speak to her and my parents to organize my next mail drop and Duke’s (my dad) trip to see me. I was finally able to get in touch with them and setup all the plans this afternoon. I would be meeting Duke somewhere between Atkins, VA and Pearisburg, VA in 3 weeks. The next time I will be able to speak with him won’t be but a few days before he departs. By the time I got off the phone, it was raining hard and the lightning was closing in. Car Bomb, Made It, Billy Goat and I decided to get out of Hot Springs and hike about a mile away to camp along the French Broad River. We had camp setup and just enough time to eat before the weather turned bad. The lightning was popping and the rain was relentless. We were in our tents from 6:00PM to 8:00AM the next morning, by far the longest time spent in our tents yet.


Day 35, 4/4/15
Start: Lovers Leap Rock
Finish: Allen Gap
Miles Hiked: 13.5
Miles To Go: 1900
Overall Miles Hiked: 289.2

When we woke up in the morning, we realized how close we were to making a mistake. During the night, the river had risen several feet and was only about 3 ft. below our tents, close call! After spending way too much time in my bag, I was the first one ready and headed out.

Coolest camp site yet along French Broad River

Coolest camp site yet along French Broad River

After a few miles, a woman without a pack passed me and said there would be trail magic at Allen Gap. I thanked her as she sped past me. I didn’t check my map because I thought I remembered seeing a sign saying it was only a couple miles away. A few hours passed and 3 bearded guys came up from behind me on the trail. Again, no packs and they said there would be trail magic at Allen Gap. I said thanks and asked if they were thruhikers. They responded, “no, just passing through. Say, do you carry a gun?” I was a little caught off guard, but managed to say, “no, I haven’t needed one yet.” They seemed harmless enough and got a kick out of my answer and they moved on. I thought that maybe a church had gathered a few of their members to pass along word that there would be trail magic ahead and thought nothing of it. After another mile I was descending into a gap and noticed a parking lot. My pace quickened as I could taste the goodies awaiting me. To my horror, there was no trail magic to be seen. I was in pouting mode when I checked my book and realized I was in the wrong gap. Allen Gap was another 8 miles ahead. Dang it! I fixed a quick lunch of Ramen Noodles and moved on. By the time I reached Allen Gap I was exhausted and could have eaten just about anything, but thanks to a fellow thruhiker’s parents, I was in store for a real meal! It turns out the 3 bearded guys that had passed me earlier were in fact thruhikers by the names of T-Bone, Remedy and Scooby. Scooby’s parents were now treating about 15 other hikers to burgers, hotdogs, sodas, beer and baked goods. The guys said they messed with every hiker they passed… just to see their reactions when they handed them a beer at the trail magic feast. Judging by some of the other stories hikers told of these three, I got off easy! After saying goodbye to Scooby’s parents, me, T-Bone, Remedy and two other thruhikers, Loon and Mile Marker, walked into the woods and set camp with full bellies!