Day 8: Glowing Trees and Makeshift Art Studios

Glowing Red Trees

It was still dark when I woke up. Since I stayed in the main part of the hostel, I could hear others coming in to prepare breakfast. It was 6:30. I closed my eyes to go back to sleep when I heard the sound of thunder. It was the whole reason I was taking a zero. Hiking on ridgelines with bolts of electricity raining down doesn’t equate to a long life. Motivated, I jumped up to head to the living room windows to see the lightning in the distance. Mun, the trail angel who was performing trail magic yesterday at Unicoi Gap, was there to assist with breakfast and to make bagels and bread for meals later in the day. I headed out to the back porch to better see the oncoming storm.

I was outside for merely a second before every hair stood on end and a bright strike of lightning slammed into a tree a few hundred feet away. The tree glowed red and was outlined in white. Holy shit. I stood frozen, waiting for the thunder. And it did not disappoint. It was deafening. I quickly walked back into the house saying, “I’m so glad I’m not sleeping outside right now.”

Journey to Clayton

By 7:30, breakfast was well on the way. It was waffles and grits. I filled up and lounged around, waiting for the 10:30 shuttle to Clayton. The outfitters, Outdoor 76, provides a free shuttle service from Dicks Creek Gap and Around the Bend Hostel to Clayton. Nine of us jumped on for a resupply. For many, this was a typical resupply. For me, I was just there to check out the sights and get stickers. Do you know how hard it is to not buy anything? I wanted candles and the thrift store had some cool stuff, but I couldn’t take any of it with me. Oh well, I’ll just spend the money on food.

A group of us went to Fortify Kitchen and Bar and completely pigged out. I got one of their chicken sandwiches with broccoli slaw on top with a side of garlic potato salad. I wish I took pictures. It was so good. With one exception, everyone got a large pizza. It’s too soon for hiker hunger, right?

Art Studio?

Moon teaching hikers how to paint.

Pretty soon, it was 3:00 and the shuttle took us back to the hostel. I was beat. The rain had stopped and I felt guilty for not getting in some miles. That night, every bed was taken, but the owners helped me out and allowed me to take the couch. That was where I was headed to take a nap when, suddenly, a makeshift art studio was set up. I was not expecting that. Neither was anyone else. Instead of sleeping, I watched as half a dozen hikers painted a sunset mountain scene. I would have joined, but I was tired. They all turned out great.

Dinner and Bedtime

Shortly after, hamburgers and hotdogs appeared, and I ate what I could before taking a shower. A group of people were sitting outside chatting and I joined in. We ended up discussing different long-distance trails. One of the people there looked familiar, and it turns out that she also writes for The Trek. Funny that.

By 7:00, I knew why 9:00 p.m. is hiker midnight. Most stayed up later, but I was out shortly after.

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