Erwin Is In The Rearview Mirror and Virginia Is Getting Within Site

Old Pack, New Pack, Green Pack, Blue Pack

Which one to make new tracks?  The new one!

Which one?

So, got situated with the new pack.  A different model that is definitely built better than the other one, as far as ruggedness, especially the shoulder straps where the old pack failed.  It’s also cheaper and lighter.  The trade off is that it doesn’t have all of the convenient outside pockets, mostly one big cavity, so I had to buy a couple of stuff sacks to help organize my water kit and my cathole kit.  Got a black bag for the cathole kit, I thought that was very appropriate and identifiable.  🙂

Rain, Rain, Go Away

So, I got the new pack, and immediately started slack packing and didn’t use it.  The weather pattern for the foreseeable future was rain.  Not flooding rain, not rain all day, but some time during the day and certainly at night you are going to get wet.  Ugh!  I called Amy at Natures Inn Hostel that had given me the ride to Erwin, all the private rooms were full due to the weather, but she had a bunk.  I’ll take it.  I knew she offered slack packing around Spivey Gap which is the next main gap.  

Amy, you and your place are the bomb!

They have a little store with frozen pizzas, burritos etc. for you heat in the microwave or air fryer.  Her brother who owns the the place is in to BBQ.  Yes!  They had homemade pulled pork packaged up for dinner portions and homemade sauce.  My kind of guy.  I will have the pulled pork please.  Made more than 2 sandwiches and was really good.  Not as good as mine, but pretty damn good.  Had that and 2 Snickers Ice Cream Bars.  Can’t remember the last time I had one of those, probably 40 years since I had two.  Turns out I was the only one in the bunk house, so it was like having a private room.  Also, it didn’t smell like a field house.

Slack Packing

So the next day, Amy ferry’s me and Lost and Found up to Spivey Gap and we slacked back SOBO (south bound) to Sam’s Gap.  13 miles and was done by 2:30.  I hope slack packing isn’t like a gateway drug.  Could be addicting.  Didn’t get rained on, but socked in with fog and clouds and no views.  Super easy.  The fog was disappointing, we went across Big Bald, but nothing to see.   But got some miles in.  It was interesting going south, you would meet more people, some that you knew, going north, rather than walking in parallel with them and not seeing them on trail.

Lost and Found on Big Bald. Could see maybe 200 feet.

The next day, Amy took a group of us back to Spivey, and some did what we did the previous day and Lost and Found and I went north to end up in Erwin at Uncle Johnny’s Hostel, which is right on the trail.  Amy, would ferry our packs around to Johnny’s and we would leave our slack packs there.  

A bunch of slackers.  Ivan, Mary, Billy Bob, Time Out, Amy and Lost and Found.

It was a pretty easy 11 miles from Spivey to Uncle Johnny’s.  Hiking was nice.  The rain held off.  The sun came out.  I saw my shadow for the first time in almost a week.  

Is that my shadow? What does it mean when a hiker sees his shadow for the first time in a week?

So I took a picture of it.  I was trying to come up with a good Groundhog Day analogy.  Before I could come up with one, I got rained on again.  Rained pretty hard, walked in the rain for an hour, then the sun came out.  So only put on and shed the rain gear twice.  Count your blessings.  The trail comes over some high cliffs as you make your way into town.  Got some good views coming into Erwin of the Nolichucky River.  

The Nolichucky River from up above Erwin, TN

Got to Johnny’s pretty early in the afternoon.  Threw my stuff on a bunk, they had loaner bicycles, so I hopped on one and pedaled up to Pancho and Amigos, a little Mexican place attached to a Shell station about a mile up the road.  Had a T-b0ne steak with rice and beans covered in cheese sauce.  Not something I would typically order, but a great hiker meal.  They sold beer too.  Hit the spot.  I was planning to hike north out of Johnny’s, but ran into Rainbow and Lucky Penny.  They had slacked from Iron Mountain Gap back to Johnny’s the day before.  20 miles, but a lot of down hill.  They highly recommended it.  There was still rain in the forecast.  Like, I said, its a gateway drug, and I needed another fix.  Got a shuttle to Iron Mountain, and did the 20 miles back to Johnny’s.  Felt good.  Got in about 5:40, and pedaled back to Pancho and Amigo’s.  Had the Amigo Special, another cheese covered thing with shrimp, steak, chicken, rice and beans.  And an order of guacamole.  And beers.  And a nutty buddy from the Shell station.  Been along time since I had one of those.  

Going Cold Turkey

The weather still looked iffy, storms, but not all day rain,  for the next couple of days,  So, I looked myself in the mirror, and decided I needed to put my big boy hiker pants on and break this addiction to slacking.  I had a new pack for 4 days and haven’t even hiked with it yet.  So, I sucked it up, got a ride with Doug back up to Iron Mountain and headed out.  Got a late start, didn’t get started till 11:00, because the store  at Johnny’s doesn’t open till 8:30 and it closes at 4:30.  Not very convenient for hikers, not sure why that is.  Hard to get good help these days.  Enjoyed Johnny’s except for that.  

Hiked into the first shelter headed towards Roan Mountain, short day, 6 miles, but threatening rain.  I decided to post up there and sleep in the shelter to stay dry.  Got crowded after a while, it was Friday, and had a lot of locals out for the weekend.  There were 20 plus tents around the shelter.  If I was a local, think I would have changed my plans with the weather.  There was a family there and they had a big set up behind the shelter.  They had a bird dog with them.  The next morning, one of their bear hangs got taken, and the dog had some type of seizure and died.  Talk about a bad weekend.  There was a full size spade at the shelter for maintenance and they were going to have to bury their dog there.  

There use to be a hotel up on top of Roan Mountain, called Cloudland.

After telling them I was sorry about their dog, I headed out hoping to get some miles in with the weather.  Went over Roan High Knob, had lunch at the shelter there, highest one on the AT, decided to push on, didn’t really want to be that high all night with the weather.  No views.  Made it on thru Carvers Gap into the Roan Highlands.  Weather was trying to break a little, but still the threat of rain that night.  So, slept in a shelter again, a lot of people had gotten off trail that day, because they had wetass-itis, so it wasn’t that crowded.  Just me and one other guy slept in the shelter, two tents and a hammock were also there.

The view from the Roan Highlands. Clear on one side of the mountain, clouds on the other.

Contracting Contagious Trail Disease

It was 11 miles into Roan and there were a couple of hostels there.  The Station at 19E, had bar food and a good beer selection.  Mountain Harbor B&B had supposedly the best breakfast on the trail.  Beer, or French Toast.  I will have the beer please.  I had an acute case of wetass-itis.   The only known cure is the 5 B’s.  Bed, Bath, Beer, Burger and Bubble Cleanse, (Bubble Cleanse is the only word I could think of for Laundry).  I was ready to be cured.

You can see the trail in the distance going up the Hump Mountain 

Half way cured. Two of the B’s. Well, that’s a Reuben, but there is a B in Reuben.

Got up the next day, had lunch at a cool waterfall.  Made it a short one, due to camp sites, just 11 miles.  Next day, had biggest day yet with a pack, 17 miles and camped by the Laurel Fork River.  Best campsite yet.  That only left me 6.5 the next day to get over Pond Mountain, and to Watauga Lake where Sherri picked me up and try get me fully cured!  An extra dose of the 5 B’s never hurt anybody!

Watauga Lake in the distance. Sherri is down there somewhere!

Until Tomorrow!






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Comments 2

  • Jo Nelson : May 24th

    You go Billy Bob. Love reading about your trials and successes. Blessings, Jo

  • Tom & Karen Greene : May 25th

    Hey Billy Bob-
    Enjoyed sharing the waterfall lunch stop and the campsite with you this week. You were like a horse going to the barn to get to Sherri. Thought we might catch up with ya but you were highly motivated.
    Plan to keep up with your journey and cheer you on. We pulled out Thursday at Shady Valley.
    Best of Luck to you and Happy Trails!
    Go Dawgs!


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