Hot Springs, NC to Erwin, TN

Posted from Erwin, TN. Mile point 342.9

We left Hot Springs, NC on Monday May 18th and arrived in Erwin, TN today, Saturday May 23rd. It’s the longest stretch of time that we have been without a town break–six days of living in the woods without a shower! I felt so sticky and so stinky that I could hardly stand myself! I didn’t look dirty, but I sure felt dirty! I often wondered while I was  walkiing  whether stinkiness multiplies by the minute or if it reaches a saturation point beyond which it is not possible to smell any worse. I hope there’s a saturation point and that I reached it on day one not day  six!

This blog is about our six day stretch in the ‘wild’. It’s a rather long post, so, just look at the pictures if you can’t stay awake for 6 days!

Monday May 18th, Day 33, Mile point 285.4

We were in Hot Springs for two days to refresh and resupply. Today we headed back out to the woods for a six day trek to Erwin, TN. It will be our longest stretch without a town break!


Overlooking Hot Springs

We woke up early and went to the Smoky Mountain Diner for breakfast before heading out for the day. Nancy, our Trail Angel from a few days back, emailed me last night to see if she and two of the kids could meet up with us and hike for a few miles! Great idea! After I figured out how long it might take us, I said we’d probably arrive at Tanyard Gap by noon. It’s a little tricky trying to figure out how long it will take us to get somewhere on foot because it partly depends on the terrain. Generally, though, we travel at less than two miles per hour–which includes rests and food breaks. We made it to Tanyard Gap with half an hour to spare!


Our Trail Angels

On our way to the gap, we ran into a hiker who was ‘slack packing’  for the day (she wasn’t carrying a full pack). She told us about her hiking friend, Slow and Steady, who lives in our hometown, Kalamazoo, Michigan! Small world

Slow and Steady has already had more than her share of mishaps. As she got out of her bivy sac one night, something bit her. It turned out to be a brown recluse spider. Within four hours, she was feeling very ill, her arm was swelling and the wound was becoming necrotic. The woman who was with her, the one we were talking with, was a nurse. She administered first aid  and then called 911. They sent in a helicopter to locate the shelter and possibly air lift her out but Slow and Steady felt well enough to go with the medics who had arrived on an ATV as near to the shelter as they could get. Long story short, Slow and Steady recovered and was out hiking within two days! Amazing!

After we visited with the slack packer, it was only a short distance to Tanyard Gap to meet Nancy and the kids.  They were going to hike with us  from Tanyard Gap to the Rich Mountain Lookout Tower–about 2.5 miles away. Just before setting out, Nancy gave us more of her delicious cookies. Yum!


Snacking in the fire tower

It was so much fun having Nancy and the kids along! When we got to the fire tower, we had hoped to enjoy a snack together at the top, but a storm was threatening, so we didn’t stay long! On the way back to the main trail, Mel was being attacked by black flies, so, unfortunately, we had to bid a quick goodbye to our three new trail friends.

Walked 11 miles today. 

Tuesday May 19, Day 34, Spring Mountain Shelter to Jerry Cabin Shelter, Mile point 300.8


The sign to ‘Mom’s’

Woke up this morning to fog and wetness. Had lots  of steep climbs today! When we came to a nondescript road crossing, we saw a rickety, homemade sign a couple hundred yards down the road that said “Mom’s”. The AWOL Guide Book said that this was a convenience store and that it was open–sometimes. It wasn’t far away,  so we took a chance and walked the extra steps! The place barely looked open even when we were standing right in front of it! We each bought a pop and a salty snack and relished such a fun treat in the middle of a hard, hot day! Thanks, Mom!


Walked 15.4 miles today! 

A very rocky climb with beautiful views!

 Wednesday May 20, Day 35, Jerry Cabin Shelter to Hogback Ridge Shelter, Mile point 316

Today was a relatively uneventful day. My feet are still hurting a lot, especially the 4th toes. I will look online for a solution when we get to town. They are very painful at times.

I think it’s funny that we were on Big Butt Mountain today–but I declined walking up to the scenic overlook, because my feet were screaming, “Enough already!”

There were lots of hikers at the shelter again tonight. Most of us were not sleeping in the shelter,  but it’s a great gathering place for cooking and talking and sometimes sitting around a fire.


Gathering with fellow hikers at a shelter


Some of our hiking friends tonight were:

Box Turtle
Ganja Man
Space Cadet
and several others whose names I don’t yet know!

Walked another 15 miler today!

Thursday May 21, Day 37, Hogback Ridge Shelter to Bald Mountain Shelter, Mile point 326.1

Mel spent a restless, painful night with what he thinks is a kidney stone. I spent a restless night worrying about him. In addition, it rained most of the night and made the tent very, very clammy–and me quite sticky. 

One of many inviting privies!

 I woke up at 6:30 and went to the privy while it wasn’t raining,  but as soon as I got back to the tent, it started again in earnest! So Mel and I stayed in the tent to wait it out. We passed the time using  Mel’s hot spot–wifi hot spot, that is, and answered our emails. That was a fun diversion on a wet, sticky morning in a small, stuffy tent!


Waiting out a rainy morning

 Once the rain stopped, we headed out–about 11:00 a.m.– a very late start for us. It was foggy and cool to start, but once the fog burned off, it was sunny most of the day.  By the time we got to our destination, though, and set up the tent, I was freezing! I took off my sweaty clothes, put on dry ones and then put on everything else I had–long pants, rain pants, fleece top, wind jacket, down jacket. Brrr! We were at 5,096 feet of elevation– which may have contributed to the cold.

I felt like I didn’t have much zip today. It was only a ten mile day, but I was dragging my feet. It could be that I didn’t get enough sleep, or not enough food, or went too many miles both yesterday and the day before and/or maybe it’s just because I’m 68 years  old! I marvel at the younger hikers who fly by us on the trail–hell, even Box Turtle who’s 57, is faster than we are! 

Mel was still in pain on and off today. He thinks he’s passing a kidney stone. He took a pain pill while we were hiking–this is significant, because he rarely takes pain meds.


A windy, beautiful bald!

 The last part of our walk today was across a huge bald. It was beautiful but horribly windy and cold! There was fog rolling in rapidly, but we could still see the sun shining across the mountains in the distance.It was a spectacular view, but the pictures I took probably won’t do it justice.


Chicken of. the Woods–an edible fungus!

 Once we made it to camp, someone had a fire going  and Mama Long Legs was roasting something on a stick. She called it Chicken of the Woods–an edible fungus! We’ve seen it everywhere on the trees, but didn’t know what it was or that it was edible. We’ll have to try it sometime!

Walked 10.1 miles today.

Friday May 26, Day 38, Bald Mountain Shelter to somewhere past No Business Knob Shelter, Mile point 340.4

The weather started out freezing cold and gradually warmed up through the day, but it took a long, long time.

We both slept pretty well last night considering how cold it was! My sleeping bag kept me toasty–too toasty; I got sweaty. Mel had a good nights’s sleep too–no pain. He had some pain during the day, though. Apparently, the stone hasn’t passed yet.

Dinner in a bag!

 Walked an additional 4 miles past the last shelter called No Business Knob Shelter (Who comes up with these names, anyway??) and  ate our ‘dinner’   (Ramen noodles and Knorr’s rice meal out of a Ziploc bag). 

Stopped  to camp around 7:00 in a nice little spot about 2 miles up from Erwin. We’ll walk into town first thing in the morning, stay at a motel, and take zero days until Mel can pass his stone.


A dog named Cricket!

Walked 14.3 miles today. (Most days, we are on our feet for about 10 hours. No wonder my feet hurt!)

Saturday May 23, Day 39, Erwin, TN, Mile point 342.9

We had a lovely, peaceful campsite last night, but by 2:00 a.m., Mel was in a lot of pain from the kidney stone. He took one pain pill and it didn’t do the job, so he had to take another. After about 45 minutes or an hour, the pain finally subsided and we got a little more sleep. Then the pain came back as we hiked into Erwin and then again as we were eating lunch. We’ll stay in Erwin until the stone passes.

Woke up shortly after dawn this morning because there  was a bird chirping away so earnestly  that it sounded a lot like an alarm clock with his repeated “beep beep beep-ing”. 


Eating cold oatmeal on a cold morning.

 I ate my cold oatmeal (a concoction I mix the night before so I don’t have to use fuel to make it in the morning) and Mel ate his Pop Tart. We figured that there were only  a few miles left to walk into town where  we could eat a real breakfast. It was not to be

Shortly  into our walk down the trail, I catapulted forward and dropped to the ground with a splat! I have no idea what happened other than I stumbled on a root. As I went crashing to the ground, I let out a loud, unprintable expletive.  I was OK—other than a littled bit rattled, a little bit stunned and a little bit sore. That was our first delay.

Further down the trail, Mel’s kidney stone was acting up and that slowed us down a bit.


Looking down on the Nolichucky River in Erwin

 As we got closer to town, the views looking down to Erwin and the Nolichucky River  were worth a second look — so I took  a few pictures–and that slowed us down some more!

By the time we got off the trail, it was stll late morning, and we could have had breakfast, but Erwin was stll 4 miles away and we would have to hitch a ride to get there –or walk! I decided that I would rather walk and hitch than stand and hitch. We had a very hard time getting a ride–even with me as a lovely and alluring Ride Bride! But finally, a kind gentleman about our age stopped to pick us up and took us to the Super 8 where we had a reservation.

As soon as we got the key to our room, I couldn’t hop in the shower fast enough and I didn’t think I could make the water hot enough to wash away the stink of 6 days without a shower! I felt like I should soak in a tub of boiling hot bleach water to get really clean!

Once clean, we felt civil enough to venture out and find something to eat and then do laundry. We were on foot, so we couldn’t afford to be picky–and McDonald’s was close by. We went in–laundry bags and all!


Laundromat fashionista!

 Next stop was Walgreens to get more Ibuprofen for Mel and some waterproof tape for me. After that, we walked all over town looking for the dang laundramat! Once in the laundromat, we changed into our rain gear so that we could wash ALL of our clothes. Unfortunately, I accidentally washed the box of Ibuprofen and the waterproof tape we had just bought! Oh my. But it looks like they both survived!


Carbo loading!

 Today, we’ve eaten all the high calorie foods we can find–burgers, fries, milkshakes and  sodas! As a nod to good health though, I’ve also eaten a salad. Mel thinks he’s lost 15 pounds so far and I’ve lost about half that. Go figure!


Sucking down a high calorie milkshake in Erwin!

It’s been a hard 6 days of hikin’ and stinkin’, but we’ll recharge our bodies here in Erwin and hit the trail again on Monday– if Mel has passed his stone!

Sunday May 24, Day 40

Postscript: Mel was in a lot of pain early this morning before sunrise so after breakfast, when he was feeling better, we walked to the hospital to see if they could help. We certainly didn’t want to go back on the trail not knowing for sure what was going on. Long story short, they drew blood, took a urine sample, and did a CAT scan. Mel has a medium sized stone and he’s dehydrated. Being dehydrated contributes greatly to the formation of stones, but it’s really hard to stay sufficiently hydrated while hiking given how heavy water is to carry! I guess we’ll have to do a better job drinking! The doctor gave Mel three prescriptions and we will continue to wait here in Erwin until he ‘gives birth’! Hopefully, the blessed event will happen soon! At least with the medication, it should be a pain free process.

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