Day 25 – No Business Knob Shelter – Curly Maple Gap Shelter — 10.5 miles
It was nice having the shelter to myself last night because waking up I didn’t have to be quiet as I got my things ready. It was about 6:30 and the sun was starting to peak through the trees. Nobody else at camp was awake while I ate my breakfast and put my things together. I was on the trail at about 7 am and only had 5 miles to get to Erwin, Tennessee where I could shower, do laundry, and resupply. The 5 miles was pretty easy, with not too many uphills and mostly downhill. I stopped to let a hiker go by and ended up having a brief conversation. His name was Scott and just out for a day hike. He was a nice grandfatherly type guy and told me to “keep smiling” as he continued up the hill. I got to Erwin at about 9 am and went right to Uncle Johnny’s Hostel. The hostel is one of the more popular ones on the trail and people have been saying it’s gotten a little out of hand since Johnny passed away not too long ago. It was only about 60 feet from where the trail is. The first thing I did was take a shower and do laundry. It was nice to feel clean and have on dry clothes. The shuttle they offered to take us into town wasn’t going to the part of town I wanted to go, so I passed on the shuttle and was looking for a different ride. I saw Gabe and we decided to take a couple bikes from the hostel and ride it 4 miles into town. Erwin is a nice small town and the downtown looks like it could be a set for Hollywood. We went to McDonalds first and got so much food. It was amazing. We recognized a group of hikers walking outside and it ended up being Guillotine and Boo Boo from Canada, Donny, and two other hikers I’ve never met before. They said they were going to see Deadpool 2 and told us to join and so we grabbed the bikes and headed off to the small movie theater downtown. It only had two screens in the building. After the movie we were hanging around outside the theater and I started talking to this dude Scott who was there with his wife and kids. He was interested in thru hike and offered to give me a ride back to the hospital and I respectfully declined and told him riding the bike back was part of the adventure. On the way back I stopped at a grocery store to get my food for the next three days and the ride back to the hostel with the bags on my handlebars. It as about 7 o’clock when I got back and I still wanted to hike to the shelter. Zippy and Hobbit showed up at the hostel so I talked to them for a little bit because I hadn’t seen them for a couple days. I got my things together, headlamp on, and was finally on the trail just after 8:30 pm. It was thunder-storming early, but by the time I started hiking it had passed. The trail was flat at the beginning, but then had over a one thousand foot elevation change in less than a mile. My mind kept playing tricks on me as I kept looking behind me every so often to make sure nothing was there. I guess I just watch too many scary movies. I got to the shelter just after 10 pm and luckily there was a spot in the shelter and I rolled my bag out and hopped in. Doing a 20 miler tomorrow!
Day 26 – Curly Maple Gap Shelter – Clyde Smith Shelter — 21.9 miles
I wish I didn’t sleep in the shelter last night because there was a guy in there snoring louder than I’ve ever heard. It was like he was faking it, but he wasn’t. I kept waking up and having a hard time to fall asleep and finally got up and moving around 6:30. I ate an everything bagel with beef jerky for breakfast then started up the trail. It was cloudy and windy, but the rain was holding off for the first few hours of the morning. The climbs were pleasant with gradual inclines and declines. I met two new hikers Galaxy and May Apple and spent a few minutes talking with them. At around 11 the rain started to come down hard. I was completely soaked from head to toe in no time. I walked in the rain for two hours before getting to a shelter where I could stop for lunch. There were two people eating there already. Their names were Paw, who was a Northbounder, and Double Stack, who came in as a Southbounder. I ate a couple bagels with tuna and Fritos and after about a half an hour decided to bang out the rest of the 9 miles to the shelter I was staying at for the night. The rain hadn’t let up, but my rain jacket kept me warm from the elements. I hadn’t seen any hikers for a few hours and then bumped into Dirty Face and her dog Bruce. Dirty Face is a Northbounder from Oregon and Bruce is a pit bull who is just a ball of muscle and very pleasant. We talked for a little and then I hiked on, finally getting to the shelter at around 6. I met some new hikers who were already eating their dinners. Their names are Noodle, Spacejam, D.K., and Cool Guy. We talked as I cooked some Mac and cheese. It was so nice to eat a warm meal after such a rainy day and also to be in dry clothes. I think there is more rain tomorrow, but maybe we’ll get lucky and it will hold off! 20 miles down today and feeling stronger and stronger.
Day 27 – Clyde Smith Shelter – Mountain Harbour B&B — 24.8 miles
I was the first person to wake up and start moving at camp around 6:45. I wanted to be out by 7 because I knew I was going to have a long day, but didn’t make it out to the trail until around 7:25. I stopped a little down the trail to fill up my water bottle and brush my teeth. I also ate an everything bagel and filled my hip pouches up with snacks for the morning. I had a nice view as I started my first climb, but fog slowly covered everything and the rain began. The stretch I hiked today is supposedly some of the most beautiful parts of the trail, but I didn’t get to see anything. Instead, I walked over bald after bald with high winds and rain coming in horizontally. It felt like little pellets hitting me as I walked above tree line on the exposed trail. It started at Roan Mountain which stands pretty tall with an elevation around 5,800 ft. Today has been the biggest mental test so far. I made it to a shelter around 1:30 and had covered about 14 miles. I ate bagels with tuna and also made some mashed potatoes so I could have something warm. I met a Captain and Sticks, both sooo northbounders who were taking a break from the cold wet trail. It rained so much that the streams flooded the trail and it got to a point where I stopped trying to avoid big puddles and had to walk through it. The trail was also slippery and I had many close calls and a few falls. I got back on trail after lunch and again the trail took me onto exposed highlands and I fought the wind and rain to make it through. I think the rain doesn’t bother me as much as it does others because I’m used to long, wet, cold days on the farm. On my way to the bed and breakfast I officially exited North Carolina and am officially in Tennessee! I finally got to the B&B around 7 pm, ate some snacks, and then showered and laid in bed. It feels nice to be out of the rain and I got a few blisters on my feet that I’m taking care of. There will be plenty more rain as I make it to Maine and I won’t let it affect me on this trail. The way I see it, if there was no rain, I wouldn’t appreciate the sun as much as I do. The rain keeps me grounded. Keeps the perspectives in perspective.