House of Gluttony
Day 26: Standing Bear Farm to Roaring Fork Shelter (15.5 miles)
There is a general feeling as you exit the Smokies that terrain will now be a bit easier, I am capable of bigger miles, etc. This tends to occur because you run through all the food in your bag, so your bag is as light as it can be, and the exit to the smokies is mostly a gradual downhill. My last day coming out of the smokies I hiked 19.3 miles.
Then, the next thing that happens is you climb straight up Snowbird Peak, a climb of almost 2,500′ over four miles. It quickly quiets any delusion of ease you may be coming into. The day was predicted to be very rainy, but we only got a light drizzle on and off. The highlight was crossing over Max Patch, a beautiful bald that you cannot camp in anymore for restoration purposes. I lucked out that the rain subsided just as I reached the top and got to enjoy 20 minutes of beautiful views before heading back down, when the rain immediately began to drizzle again. Camp was nice, some of the usual suspects. I got to connect a little with a Canadian hiker named Stealth that I am glad I got to talk to a bit more, as we connected much more over the weekend.
Day 27: Roaring Fork Shelter to Hot Springs (17.6 miles)
Today turned out to be surprisingly wonderful. My plan was to hike as far as the shelter 3.2 miles from Hot Springs, which would have been 14.4 miles. That way I could hike into town in the morning and take full advantage of the hostel’s laundry and showers, and then stay the night on Sunday and Monday. I had previously discussed with a hiker I connected with, Carrier Pigeon, who had invited me to join him and his family in the hot springs in town. Once I arrived at the campsite I turned on my phone to discover no signal. So I proceeded to set up my tent and grab my food to have a bite to eat. As I began to eat, another gentleman at the picnic table was pontificating to a younger hiker about how evolution is clearly false. Meanwhile, another hiker was making his dinner while chain smoking and spitting a lot. It was kind of uncomfortable. Suddenly my phone got service and I got a message from Pigeon that Stealth had hiked into town and was stay with him, and he had another bedroom with a bed with my name on it, and a hot shower. I let him know I’d be there in 90 minutes, took down my tent, and hauled ass into town before the sun went down.
Turns out his grandparents had rented a four bedroom cabin for he and his friends to occupy for a few days. And I had the honor of being one of those friends. Both of his grandparents were incredibly gracious with definite southern hospitality. There was homemade beef and barley soup with cornbread waiting when I arrived, and soon after eight pizzas appeared on the table. Food and beer and homemade wine was a plenty, and this essentially continued for the next two days.
Days 28 & 29: Hot Springs (zero x 2)
Being that we were in Hot Springs, NC, we of course needed to get into some hot springs and rejuvenate our muscles. The plan was for the three of us to head over Sunday afternoon, but I gave a call and there is no availability until Monday. So I made an appointment for 2 hours in a group tub that could hold up to seven. We then proceeded to go out to the local outfitter for some supplies, and then stopped at the local brewery where we chatted with other hikers from around the area and were bought many rounds. We finally returned to the cabin to cook some fabulous filet mignon and baked potato dinners.
The next day I had a bunch of business to take care of, and wanted to get that done as soon as possible so I could get on with the business of relaxing and eating until it was hot tub time. First had to work out details of my health care, which was easily solved with one phone call. Then it was a matter of deciding what I was sending home so I could lighten my load a little. The Items I sent home are as follows and add up to 3.8 lb:
Umbrella – I brought an umbrella as well as my rice farmers hat. I honestly thought I would be leaving my hat in a hiker box after a week and resorting to the umbrella. Turned out. I love the hat, it works for both Sun and rain, and has a strap so it’s not bothered by the wind. So the hat stays and the and the umbrella goes home.
Microspikes – these were in case of icy conditions, especially in the smokies. Turns out I did not need them at all, but I would have rather carried an extra pound and not needed them then been caught in a dangerous situation.
Merino Wool Leggings – I have two pairs of leggings, one for hiking in the cold, and one to always keep dry to sleep in. The weather is warming up, and my 10° quilt is plenty.
Long Sleeve Heavy Shirt – I’m replacing this with a sun shirt as the temperatures increase,
Puffy Jacket – I have both a puffy and a very good fleece. This is the only item I’m iffy on sending home, but I’m taking the chance since it’s 10 oz. I’ve only worn it once so far.
Business completed, it’s hot tub time. The hot springs are pumped into large outdoor jacuzzis at a spa. I had rented one large enough for seven, and amazingly seven hikers came out of the woodwork. All together it was two female thru hikers, Chris and Killer, four male through hikers, Swayze, Pigeon, Stealth, and I, and one section hiker who had joined us for dinner the night before, Pinky. We all sat around enjoying the water and drinking beer before heading back to the cabin for a big pot of leftover beef and barley stew and an early night, as tomorrow we begin to hike again.
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