Drunk Thru Hikers Say the Darnedest Things
Bama➡️Baxter Day 61&62
Day 61: 20.5 miles
This morning I woke up and my tent was surprisingly dry considering we camped in a pasture. I got up a bit earlier than usual around 6:15am so that I could take my time packing up. Another hiker Eric made a morning fire so I was able to sit out by it until the guys were ready to go. Then around 7:30am we were all hiking out.
We walked for about 5 miles before taking our first break of the day. It was an easy start to the day with few notable climbs. Plus it was supposed to rain a lot today and was holding off for now. That always makes the walking a whole lot easier. When we got to the shelter 5 miles in we all chilled out and snacked. I ate chips and dip with a spoon because my chips had turned to dust being compressed in my food bag. Black Beard caught up to us while we were there and we met another hiker who had camped in the shelter last night.
When we headed out from our break we knew that we had a few more leisurely miles of walking before a big climb. So we enjoyed the cruisy miles while we had them. I jammed out to music and the time flew by. When we arrived at a road before the start of the climb up Roan Mountain we decided to take another quick break. It’s nice to fuel up on food and water before a long climb. The climb up Roan Mountain goes on for about 5 miles so I would say that’s a pretty long climb for the AT.
Back on the PCT the climbs tend to be graded more gradually but generally go on for much longer. It’s not uncommon to spend most of the day doing one long gradual climb. Whereas on the AT I’ve noticed that the longest climbs we’ve had are around 5-7 miles. Though the elevation tends to be less gradual on the AT for sure. It’s interesting to compare and contrast in my mind. Long trails can feel so similar at times but also so drastically different.
After taking our break we pushed on to do the first half of the climb up Roan Mountain. I was expecting an intense and rugged climb, so I was pleasantly surprised that it was graded quite well and was as gradual as you could hope for. Either way you’re climbing. But I truly appreciate a gradual ascent. About 3 miles into the climb the trail flattened out briefly. The reprieve was nice but it was also a bit of a tease. We knew that we had another couple of miles to go before we reached the top.
All of us as snacked and relaxed for a bit before continuing on to the top. And I must say that the last couple of miles were even more gradual and forgiving. I was just grateful not to be suffering too bad on the climb. It helped that it was an overcast and cooler day. When it’s hot out I overheat quickly on the climbs and it makes it feel so much harder.
Just as we were getting up to the top it began to drizzle. All of us were just hoping the rain would hold off until we were up and over so we really couldn’t complain. The timing was pretty perfect. We did the spur trail to the Roan Mountain shelter to take a peak at it. The shelter is fully enclosed and two stories tall. One of the nicer ones we’ve come across on trail so far
Then we began to make our way down off the mountain. I was so glad that the rain held off until after the climb because I cannot hike uphill in rain gear. With the rain gear on I heat up so quickly and it becomes miserable. Out here we joke about it and call it “boil in the bag”. But since we were now descending it was the perfect time to bundle up in the rain gear.
The climb down was a bit slick at times but not too bad. I can imagine it would be pretty rough on a rainier day.
After a few miles of downhill we reached a road intersection with a parking area. All of us wanted to take a break but it was raining pretty hard. But we saw a pit toilet in the parking lot with a decent sized over hang so we all crowded together by the door and hid from the rain. It doesn’t get more hiker trash than taking a break right outside a bathroom.
While we were sitting there we saw none other than Kent walking by! He’s assisting his wife Patty and doing trail magic along the way. When we saw him we all hollered to him and I yelled, “Kent, we love you!”. We saw him probably 4 or 5 times yesterday and he gave us trail magic twice. He was becoming quite the legend in our eyes. Yesterday we had told him that we were considering “Kent blazing” and just following him and his wife along the trail.
When he came up to us we all talked and he jokingly said, “Why are you guys sitting over here when the store is over there?” Meaning his mini van. So of course we grabbed our things and headed back to his van with him to have ourselves some trail magic. It was such an unexpected treat on a rainy day. What an awesome surprise. I had a coke and some smart food and we chatted with Kent at his car. It began to rain heavier so we finished up, thanked Kent for once again treating us to cold drinks and snacks, and continued along.
The rest of the day was a lot more chill than our afternoon climb. We had a few brief climbs but nothing that lasted more than a half a mile or so. Any longer climbs and I would have been sweating my ass off in my rain gear. A fog had rolled in so we didn’t get the best views up top but they were still pretty great. The rain was light enough that all of us were still enjoying ourselves as we walked. We were all just glad that it wasn’t pouring and we weren’t soaking wet.
After a handful more miles we came upon a spur trail to a camping area. There is a big red barn just .2 miles off the trail which used to be a really awesome shelter. But sadly it’s not being maintained by the ATC and is now considered condemned. The views from the shelter and surrounded campsites were incredible. You had great rolling views of the valley below. Clouds moved quickly through the surrounding hills and we got to watch the scene for the rest of the evening.
We all got situated for the night and then hung out and cooked dinner. Smoke and Holy Shit were already set up in their tents when we arrived and they came over to us to talk for a while. Then Eric and Matt rolled in and set up as well. Gio and Roxy wound up camping right with Spring Break, Sweet Pea, and I for the night too which was great. Gio is a really nice guy and I’m obsessed with his dog Roxy. She’s adorable and really well behaved. I gave her a slice of cheese and watched her gobble it up.
All of us chilled, talked, and watched the beautiful views right in front of us for the remainder of the evening. The sunset was incredible and as the sky became dark we could see the lights turn on at an enormous mansion on one of the hills across from us. I can’t even imagine how amazing it would be to live in a home with views like that. The house was perched on top of a hill with views down into the valley just like ours. Thats truly a dream.
After a while we all called it a night. I’m looking forward to a short day of hiking tomorrow to get to Roan Mountain where we will be spending the night at Mountain Harbour. It’s a popular hostel on trail and is well known for having the best breakfast on the entire AT.
Day 62: 9 miles
This morning I woke up around 6:30am and broke down my camp. It was raining out but only lightly fortunately. The rain really didn’t matter to us much at this point because we were headed to town. We’ll be sleeping inside tonight, taking a hot shower, and doing laundry.
We set out around 7am and had 9 miles to go to get to Roan. It was a really gradual and cruisey morning with hardly any elevation gain. All of us moved quickly along the trail feeling motivated by the prospect of real food and getting out of the rain. About 6 miles in to the morning we decided to take a break. The idea of pushing all the way to town was tempting, but we really weren’t in any rush. So we enjoyed a rest to snack and relax. We were also right by the North Carolina and Tennessee border and officially left Tennessee for the last time! Another state down.
Spring Break’s girlfriend is flying in from the UK today to join him on trail for a month or so which is pretty exciting. I’ve been hiking with him since my 2nd day on the AT and we’ve gotten to know one another pretty well. So I’m looking forward to meeting his girlfriend and hiking together.
After our break we only had another 3 miles to go to the hostel. It was pretty much all downhill so the time went by quickly. And before we knew it we were at the road and took the side trail down to the hostel. Near Roan Mountain there are two hostels that everyone talks about; Mountain Harbour and Station 19. The “best breakfast on trail” title was all that we needed to know. So that’s why we chose to stay at Mountain Harbour. But we had heard great things about the Station as well. Apparently they have hundreds of different beers and really great food. So we might just have to pop over there at some point today as well.
We arrived at Mountain Harbour around 11:30am and got checked in. At the general store I bought a snack and some drinks. Then we hung out briefly waiting for the bunk room to be ready. Crigas was there on the porch doing some work on a book he’s writing about the PCT. Him and his mom did a 28 mile day yesterday to get here which is super impressive. We’ve done some long days so far but not that long.
Once the bunk room was ready we brought our things inside. I picked a bed and then gathered up all of my laundry for later when we do a load. I also picked out some loaner clothes to wear for after I shower. It’s always an awesome treat when hostels have loaner clothes to use. That way I can wash everything I own without having to sit around in a towel all afternoon waiting for the laundry to be done. The pants I chose were fleece lined joggers, so I was about to be incredibly comfortable. I took a hot shower which felt amazing. My skin was still so cold from our rainy hike in this morning. It felt wonderful to warm up and put on comfortable clean clothing.
The guys took turns showering and we all went through our food bags to see what we needed to buy for the next stretch of trail. I sat outside and did some writing and blogging and talked to some other hikers. I also chugged down a Yoo-hoo and a Dr. Pepper which are two of my favorite trail drinks at the moment.
Sadly the restaurant wasn’t opening at Mountain Harbour today but they did have some microwave options. So I made myself 2 microwave pepperoni pizzas which actually hit the spot. Standards can be real low when you’re hungry.
Once we all showered and got our laundry going we decided to walk over to The Station to get food. Spring Break, Sweet Pea, Crigas, and I walked over together. It was still raining so we decided to stick our thumbs out and see if we got a ride so that we didn’t have to walk the mile down the road. And sure enough one of the first cars pulled over and took us. There was room for all of us so long as I sat on top of a children’s booster seat. But somehow I fit perfectly! The ride over was quick and we were all so thankful to the driver for saving us the walk.
Inside Smoke and Holy Shit were there drinking and eating. We all sat at the bar and immediately ordered food and drinks. I got a delicious strawberry cider made with real fruit. I’m not a big beer person but will drink it on trail because it’s often all that there is, and the calories are unbeatable. But having the choice between tons of different ciders was even better! I was in my own version of heaven. For food I ordered the hiker mac n cheese with buffalo chicken. It was incredible and I devoured it pretty quick. Sweet Pea ate the same dish and then ordered a Reuben and fries on top of it. His appetite is impressive. That kid is a bottomless pit.
We all hung out and shot the shit. When we arrived the bar was nearly empty, but within an hour it was filled with hikers we knew. Eric and Matt arrived as well as Black Beard, Gio, and Roxy! She sat down by Gio’s feet at the bar and had herself a Reuben sandwich for dinner. That doggy eats like a king out here. It was such a great time hanging out and talking with everyone. I love this bubble of hikers! They’re all so amazing and I’m so stoked to finally be in this consistent bubble of familiar faces.
Everyone was getting loose and having fun. Definitely some more than others! Being a “solo female hiker” is truly endless entertainment because guys will truly say the wildest things to you while they’re drinking. I’ve acquired a pretty high tolerance and at this point I could probably laugh off just about anything.
In the other room past the bar some people played pool and a group of hikers wound up line dancing together. It was so fun to watch. Especially seeing people dance who you would never have expected. What a night. I met a few hikers who I’d never talked to before which was nice. I also spent a lot of time talking to the hikers that we’ve been in our little bubble with.
On top of that, I ran into another PCT hiker from last year named Ballsack. I knew of her because she had been in a trail family with Queen Liz, a hiker who I was in a trail family with for about 700 miles. He had told me all about her and how cool she was so I wound up following her on Instagram. So it was super random and cool to meet her for the first time at The Station. I sent the photo to Queen Liz while telling him what a small world it was. And we wound up making plans to catch up on the phone later tonight. We haven’t talked in close to 2 months so catching up sounded wonderful.
Before heading out I ordered a Reuben to take back to the hostel. We finished up our drinks and then the amazing guy Dave who runs The Station offered us a ride back to Mountain Harbour. I really respected that he didn’t see the other hostel as competition. He just appreciated our business and was happy to give us a lift.
Once we got back we all lounged for the rest of the night. I talked to Queen Liz on the phone which made my night. He’s planning to do the TA in New Zealand this fall which is a bucket list thru hike. He filled me in on the other recent developments of his life and we reminisced about the PCT. It’s funny that I can be having so much fun on this trail and still miss the PCT and my previous trail families. The bonds you make out on a thru hike are incredible.
After a while I headed inside to call it a night. It was rainy and cold out so taking a phone call outside wasn’t my best idea. But it was well worth it to catch up with Queen. Back inside I got situated and ready for bed. Then around 10pm Spring Break’s girlfriend Tia arrived! She was super nice and we met briefly before everyone called or a night.
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