For today's Trail Tales, I'm going to focus in on some of the hostels we stayed in during our hike (with some other photos thrown in for good measure).
Our first stay in a hostel was here at the Hiawassee Inn. We shared a room with Yoohoo, Hodge, and Captain Hook (from left to right in the photo). The next morning, the owners invited us into their office for a "hiker's only" breakfast of cereal, toast, juice and coffee. Free food is always welcome and appreciated by hungry hikers!
On our first 20 mile day, we came across a trail angel (someone who helps hikers) about 10 miles into our hike. Inside that tent we found hot dogs, candy bars, water bottles, soda, and lots of other goodies that ultimately gave us the energy to put those miles behind us.
Our first 20 mile day took us right into the Nantahala Outdoor Center where we stayed at the Nantahala Inn. We split a room with Yoohoo and our buddy Matt (who, at that time did not have a trail name) and spent a fun night grilling sausages, star-gazing, and talking about our adventures on the trail.
This is one of my favorite photos of Will from the trail. We came upon this Coke machine as we hiked into Fontana, and Will was over-the-moon excited (he loves his Coke!) as you can clearly see. What you can't see is that a few minutes later, after figuring out that this Coke machine didn't actually work, he gave that thing a good swift kick...and it still didn't give him back his money.
After living through the Smokies, we spent an unplanned two nights at Standing Bear Farm. I was coming down with a nasty chest cold, so after getting about 5 inches of snow the first night we were there, we decided to stay an extra night to keep me out of the cold. We spent a long day sitting by the fire reading books off the hostel shelves and playing cards with the other hikers who were staying there. Our first night, we rode into the tiny town of Cosby, TN and ate Mexican food while listening to a bluegrass band at a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant. A memorable experience indeed.
In Hot Springs, we spent another two nights (I still sounded like I was coughing up my lungs every few minutes) at Elmer's Sunnybank Inn, a beautiful old Victorian house. We ate "family style" around a big wooden table and were served things like homemade granola and yogurt, whole grain pancakes with fruit, black bean and spinach burritos, and peanut soup. Hot Springs was definitely one of my favorite trail towns.
Many sections of the AT start with a climb up to a ridge and then a long walk across the top before heading down the other side. Here we are up on a ridge on a beautiful day in North Carolina.
Hiking over Big Bald Mountain on our way to No Business Knob shelter.
Yoohoo and Swiftcreek hiking into Erwin, TN.
In Erwin, we stayed at Miss Janet's house - a much-loved-by-all-hikers hostel right in the heart of Erwin. We spent Saturday night, and on Sunday morning, I sat right there on those steps in the beautiful spring weather and watched the people of Erwin go about their Sunday morning business. I saw people walking to church, heading to the coffee shop, stopping to talk with their neighbors, walking dogs. Early spring flowers were blooming, church bells were ringing, dogs were barking, and at that moment, my life was perfect. I loved Erwin, Tennessee.
After leaving Erwin, we hiked up and over Unaka Mountain, a pine forest which was one of my favorite sections of the trail. That night we stayed at Cherry Gap Shelter where we had the most intense thunder storms I've ever witnessed in my whole life. The wind sounded like a train coming at us through the forest, and when it hit, there were leaves flying in front of the shelter at ridiculous speeds. That night I spent a considerable amount of time praying that those big strong trees surrounding the shelter would not come through the roof.
The next day, we were way too ambitious and hiked 20 miles up and over Roan Mountain (or as we like to affectionately call it: the mountain from hell). Shaken up from the storms the night before, we got an early start and eventually found ourselves in the shadow of Roan. As we started up, we quickly realized that there were several false summits so every time we thought we were done climbing, the trail took a sharp turn and started climbing again. About halfway up, storm clouds started rolling in so we picked up our pace. We ended up hiking through pouring rain, thunder and lightening, and hail before finally making it to the summit of Roan. That night, we spent a chilly night on the back side of the mountain in Stan Murray shelter and woke up to snow covering our sleeping bags.
The day after Roan, we spent several beautiful miles hiking up and over Big and Little Hump Mountains. If you look closely in this photo, you can see the trail head up the bald.
A couple days later, we had a quick stay at Kincora Hostel. The owner, Bob Peoples is a one-of-a-kind guy who would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it.
There I am on the top bunk at Kincora, doing a little reading. I didn't mind the extra weight of carrying a book since it gave me something to do in the evenings on the trail.
Swiftcreek by Laurel Falls after leaving Kincora.
Beautiful sunset from a ridge.
A couple days later we reached our first big milestone - Damascus, Virginia! That's me up there at the Tennessee/Virginia border, and there's Will clinging to the "Welcome to Damascus" sign for dear life. We made it! From here, we were picked up by my aunt and uncle who live nearby, and spent a glorious three days basking in their kindness in the form of 100% cotton clothing and incredible amounts of amazing food. Family is the best.
That's all for today! Hope you enjoyed these tales from the trail. Makes me want to get out in the woods! Happy Monday!