Day 37: Big Bald, Hail, and Shots!

Sleepy Morning

I did not sleep well. The cabin was so hot and instead of using the hostel provided blanket, I kept reaching for my ten degree sleeping quilt. Half asleep Morgan does not make great decisions.

Sometime in the night, I woke to hear a loud clap of thunder. It began hailing, which was loud on the metal roof, and the wind picked up. I sleepily thought, isn’t the rain supposed to be over with? I tried to go back to sleep, but couldn’t until the rain stopped.

Slackpacking at Spivey Gap

At 6:30, I was awake and ready to start the day. I waited fifteen minutes before climbing down from the top bunk to get ready. We were slackpacking today. With five people doing this, it came out to twenty dollars for two days. The price couldn’t be beat. We would head to Spivey Gap and hike southbound back to Sam’s Gap. Tomorrow, we’d go back to Spivey and hike northbound to Erwin where all our gear would be waiting at Uncle Johnny’s Hostel.

In the main building, I ate breakfast and put all my gear into a loaner pack. It weighed next to nothing.The side pockets were small and I feared my water bottle would fall out. It didn’t. At around 8:00, Amy asked if we were ready and we all shuffled to the van.

The ride was about 25 minutes, but we passed several beautiful waterfalls on the way there. At the gap, I wasted no time in hiking. It was an immediate uphill, but my pack was light. Too light. I felt really weird with having no hip belt. The pack sat solely on my shoulders and would hit my back lightly as I moved. It took a few miles to get used to.

Thoughts up to High Rocks

On the way up, I wasn’t in a great mental state. I think I was berating myself for slackpacking and that doing this entire section northbound would be easier. I am extremely unforgiving of myself. I hold myself to such high standards that if I don’t make them, I see myself as a failure. Trust me, I know I need therapy. I’m hoping this hike will help me find clarity on that particular issue.

Near the top of the first mountain peak of the morning, Fine Young Buck was nearby. He brightened up my day by just talking. When we hit a small downhill section, I took it as cautiously as I do with a heavy pack and immediately knew that I could go faster. My joints weren’t being impacted nearly as much. I went down fast and once I hit a relatively flat section, I held out my arms and ran. I had energy and was feeling great. I wasn’t even out of breath. I looked behind me and saw that Fine Young Buck was also running. It was a great day. It was sunny out.

Little Bald and Big Bald

As we got closer and closer to Big Bald, we ran into some hikers who stayed at the shelter. One guy cooed, “Oh, we got some slackers.” I did not like that attitude. I did stop and hear them speak with Fine Young Buck about how much last night sucked. The wind was blowing rain directly into the shelter.

I continued on and with a mere 200 feet from the top of Little Bald, I stopped to take a picture of what looked suspiciously like hail. It was at that moment that a weekend backpacker stopped and talked with me. He reaffirmed that last night sucked. Why? Because it was a full on blizzard outside. It snowed. It rained. It hailed. And the wind was blowing all of it into the shelter. I had no idea it was that bad. He showed me pictures of him hiking in the snow right before he got to the shelter. Thank god I was in a cabin.

Hail was everywhere. It looked like they got a lot of it too.

Little Bald was extremely underwhelming. It wasn’t a bald at all. Big Bald was better. Much better. Max Patch held nothing to Big Bald. It was extremely windy, though. I took my pictures, looked out across the mountains, and continued on. It was mostly downhill from there.

Magic in the Woods

After a half of a mile, it became apparent to me that I did not have enough calories in me. Bad part was: I barely had any food left. My pace slowed down and I dreaded the six mile hike down.

I reached this one tree and saw a sign that said “free food and beer” with an arrow pointing up the hill. On the other side of the tree, a sign said “trail magic”. I followed the sign.

Just up and over the ridge was a paved road and a house. I had no idea I was so close to a neighborhood. There were several cars and I wondered if it was a birthday party or community potluck. At the driveway, I was greeted by three dogs. There were more scattered all over the property. There were at least seven dogs running around and playing. Or trying to steal food. I was greeted by some people and was asked if I wanted a hotdog or a hamburger. I stopped to think. The lady, reading my expression goes, “Or we can do both.” They did both. They had pasta salad, snacks, fruit, cake, soda, and beer. It was a party. All the other slackpackers, except Sweeper and Fine Young Buck, were there. Fine Young Buck showed up a few minutes later and we had our fill.


One of the volunteers who helps maintain the North Carolina side of the Appalachian Trail went around asking if anyone wanted to do a shot of vodka. Hawaii and I both said yes. We did the shot and I grimaced. It’s been a while since I’ve done that.

Another hiker showed up and she said she was only doing a day hike, but she thru-hiked in 2021. Her trail name is Bug Bite (I believe) and she only wanted to hand out small vials of Fireball. I now had alcohol for later in the day.

Sam’s Gap! Again.

Pretty soon, it was time to leave. We said our goodbyes and they piled us with snacks. I had no complaints. The downhills were much easier now that I consumed a large amount of calories. It was still long, though. The anticipation of being near the end slows time down.

I did finally get to Sam’s Gap and Amy picked us up. She bemoaned about doing taxes and that she needed to vent by speed driving her ‘84 Subra along the windy mountain roads after she dropped us off.

Back at the Hostel

Back at the hostel, Sweeper, Fine Young Buck, and I soaked our feet in the cold stream. It felt great. Afterwards, I took a shower. I called the parents, before heading to the social area to dink around. We all layed about and snacked. We soon ate dinner. It was cozy again because Kea built another fire.

Sunbird and his wife stopped by and dropped off an enormous amount of expensive electrolytes because he didn’t like the taste of them. Works for me. I now have a lot.

As it got later, I retired to the cabin. I prepared my bags and chilled for the rest of the night.

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