Days 21 to 27 of my 2023 AT Nobo Thru-Hike

Day 21

A fun, live bait vending machine I saw in Hot Springs (I didn’t take many pictures…)

I woke up incredibly tired today after a crazy thunderstorm last night. I am quite thankful that I stayed in Sour Patch’s sturdy double wall tent, as I woke up dry, unlike the inside of the shelter. It was once again hot, and after a sluggishly slow first half of the day, I ended up splitting from the group and hiking ahead into town solo. The promise of town food never fails to motivate me haha. I crushed the 18ish miles fairly quickly, and ended up at Laughing Heart Hostel at 3pm, which was hours earlier than planned. I quickly finished my town chores before going out for dinner and drinks with everyone. Darren bought everyone drinks, and went out with a bang as he’s leaving tomorrow. I’m absolutely going to miss that dude! After going out, I enjoyed a nice fire before retreating to my surprisingly comfortable bunk.

Day 22

The sprawling metropolis that is Hot Springs

We took a zero in Hot Springs today, and essentially didn’t do much. Because it’s a small town, none of the restaurants were open, so we all got breakfast sandwiches from the “Hillbilly Market and Deli” which ended up being fresh and quite delicious. After that, we said our goodbyes to Darren, and then commenced to resupply and fix our gear. Because I had completed most of my chores the prior day, I only ended up grabbing some waterproof stuff sacks for my clothing and quilt as my pack liners keep breaking. After stuffing my face during lunch, Groot, Connor, Smiles, and I ended up watching the Fellowship of the Ring back at the hostel. Following that, we rushed off to dinner where I proceeded to watch Texas Basketball choke in their Elite 8 game. Overall, a decent zero, but I kind of wish I had taken a nero. I’ll have to re-assess my next town stop and maybe take a nero instead. Anyways, looking forward to crushing the climb out tomorrow!

Day 23

The gorgeous climb out of Hot Springs, including a small sliver of the French Broad River

I had a rocky start to the day after not getting much sleep in the Laughing Heart Lodge due to my roommates staying up late and making noise. Because of this, I decided to get an early start on the day in order to lay out some decent mileage. My damaged toe feels fine, but I absolutely need new shoes, so I’ll need to figure out the logistics for that. In other news, I got a fresh cookie from the “cookie lady” at her house in the middle of the woods, and it was delicious! While I was there, I ran into the Alchemist and Rich, so we hiked the climb up to the next shelter, Little Laurel shelter together. While there, we had dinner and enjoyed the company of a new person, Taylor, who was doing her 3rd hike of the trail! As it was warm, The Alchemist and I decided to finish off the climb, and find a campsite just over the ridge. We ended up finding a beautiful secluded site that was flat, and even had two springs to choose from! Overall, this was my longest day, so far, with a total of just over 24mi hiked, including my various side quests. I’m excited to see if we can push hard again tomorrow!

Day 24

The Alchemist surveys the view from a ridgeline

The Alchemist and I started out early today, and immediately hiked across an absolutely beautiful ridge line. We then proceeded to crush a ton of miles before hitting a gap where we encountered trail magic. The timing couldn’t have been better because it immediately started hailing on us! Emoji had practically a whole resupply worth of stuff in her car, chairs for us each, and umbrellas to protect us from the hail pellets. Another woman at the gap, Ma from New Hampshire, was waiting for her husband, and had us sign the side of her van. After that, we had a long, wet climb up to the ridge line before we made it to Hogback Ridge Shelter, where we were rewarded with sunshine and good company!

Day 25

The happy look on my face, right before I realized we would be hiking another unplanned 4 miles into Erwin

We started the day at Hogback Ridge shelter, where we were awoken with warm sunlight after a cool misty morning. With the promise of trail magic, which we were informed of by another hiker, the Alchemist and I quickly packed up and flew down the ridge line where we had freshly made breakfast tacos. We also ran into Taylor again, who had at some point passed us. We then proceeded to play leapfrog with her as we each took turns taking breaks and passing each other throughout the day. The 3 of us eventually stopped to have lunch together on top of Big Bald, where we soaked in the views and the sunlight. After that, we continued to leapfrog again until No Business Knob shelter, where we had dinner together. It was there that the Alchemist and I made the call to walk into Erwin that night instead of waiting until the next day. After an absolutely gorgeous descent down to Uncle Johnny’s, we were informed that there were no more bunks available. So we made a reservation at a nearby hotel, and then tried (and failed) to find a ride. After an hour of calling shuttles and messing with Uber, we made the call to just walk the 4mi into town, which pushed our total daily mileage over 30mi! To get there we had to traverse the “Erwin Linear Trail” which slowly wound its way through the industrial park and water treatment plant… Once we FINALLY arrived, we celebrated with large orders at Taco Bell before finally passing out at our hotel.

Day 26

Goodbye, Erwin!

After our big day, we slept in and slowly completed chores before we checked out of the hotel. Sleeping in my own, quiet, queen sized bed, for the first time since starting the trail was absolutely amazing. After packing up, we headed to a nearby coffee shop that a Taco Bell employee had recommended for breakfast. Once we got there, we ran into Taylor again, who we had breakfast with and regaled her about our previous night’s quest. After breakfast, we headed out to resupply in town and to look around a bit. I called a nearby shoe store to see if they had a replacement for my shredded Hokas, but I was out of luck. I ordered a pair to have waiting for me in Damascus, and then the Alchemist and I went out to dinner with our group, which had just rolled into town. After a quick bite, we hit the trail again for a quick climb up to Curley Maple Gap shelter, where we were greeted by Groot and 700. Fingers crossed the weather holds tomorrow and that we can have a big day tomorrow!

Day 27

Today the Alchemist, 700, and I woke up earlier than usual this morning and cranked out a solid number of miles before lunch. Along the way, we were surprised by some amazing trail magic which provided us fresh brownies and ice cold Arnold Palmers! It sprinkled on and off a bit, but after lunch it was partly cloudy and breezy. I felt a bit bored by the lack of views and constant climbs so I put on some music, and later called my friend Chris to crank out the last 9ish miles up to Clyde Smith shelter. Thankfully I was able to secure a spot in the shelter, in order to avoid having to deal with the high winds expected tonight, but it was a bit crowded. After some fun conversations with some new faces, Anna and Will, we all went to bed early and prepared for the wind to roll in. Thankfully, it’s looking like it will only be wind and rain! Hopefully the weather is decent enough tomorrow to check out Roan Mountain tomorrow!

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