Making My Way to Franklin

You know how I said my next resupply after Hiawassee would be a mail-drop at the NOC? That was a lie. The past six days have been a classic humbling trail experience, and through it all I gained a trail name, became the foster child of a rather large tramily, and crossed the 100-mile mark at Albert Mountain! We have a lot of catching up to do.

After my stay at Around the Bend, I got a shuttle out to Blue Ridge Gap, mile 75, where I began my last day in Georgia. I planned to hike about 11 miles that day up to Standing Indian Shelter, and I did, but not without making a hasty judgment call that would leave me stuck for two days. Around 6 miles into my day, right before I hit Muskrat Creek Shelter, I hit a rock at an awkward angle and had a passing thought that I might’ve rolled my ankle. I mulled that over in my head as I continued past Muskrat, but in my naïveté I just went “well it doesn’t hurt right now.” Four miles later I knew it was a rolled ankle I was working with, and it was hurting.

Sitting at Standing Indian

Counting the first night and last morning, that ankle tied me to Standing Indian Shelter for four days. It was a humbling experience as I saw so many familiar faces walk in then walk right back out. The whole situation reminded me of a quote from Ford Prefect of the Hitchhiker’s Guide: “Unfortunately I got stuck on the Earth for rather longer than I intended. I came for a week and got stuck for fifteen years.” It felt about that long, that’s for sure. 

On the first zero day I took Benadryl with breakfast and dinner to sleep the day away. The following day I was given ibuprofen and an edible by some friendly hikers to pass the time. I also, of course, let my family know about my predicament, and of their recommendations of ice and elevating the limb, only one was realistic. My plan coming out of Hiawassee was to go 60 miles in 6 days to the NOC then to Fontana Dam, picking up mail-drops at both locations to keep going. I even remember telling someone back at Around the Bend that I might not even get off trail until after the Smokies.

Having packed six days of food, I was able to rest for a while, but that obviously wouldn’t last forever. To make matters worse, I tweaked my other ankle while putting on my camp shoes during my second zero. The smartest thing would’ve been to go back a mile and hire a shuttle to bring me back to civilization, but, stubborn as I am, I refused to lose miles on the trail.

Foster Care

Though I don’t know where they are as I sit here writing, I wouldn’t have made it out of Standing Indian when I did if it weren’t for the tramily I fell in with. When I met them, their names were Aloha, Sweet Potato, Grateful Ed, and Thomas. A diving captain named Randy, now seaweed, is also a part of the tramily, but he was up ahead, goading us on with pictures of trail magic.

That first day out of Standing Indian was a long one, fifteen miles in total, but I don’t think that sort of pace is sustainable right now. I only made it that far by distracting myself with conversation, matching paces with one tramily member or another and talking each other’s ears off until some miles had passed without us realizing it.

The inspiring view from the top of Standing Indian

The first leg of the day I hiked with Grateful Ed, an old writer who I had the privilege of talking with for two or three hours that morning. His life has a lot of things I’d like to do someday. From publishing books to running college radio stations, I kind of saw him as a future me. We also talked about writing styles and authors – I’ll be sure to start reading Terry Pratchett whenever I get the chance. According to Ed he’s like the Douglas Adams of fantasy, and on paper that sounds like my favorite author of all time. Around halfway through my leg with Ed, we caught up with Thomas and he joined the conversation for a while.
Sweet Potato and Aloha are a pretty cool couple, but I didn’t talk to them alone for too long. Aloha was actually thinking about changing his trail name. He just likes saying aloha whenever he sees people, but now he has to explain to everyone that he’s not actually from Hawaii every time they ask his name and it’s getting a bit embarrassing. To get some insight into his character he listens to Dungeons and Dragons podcasts and has a knee tattoo of Cthulhu as The Flying Spaghetti Monster. If that doesn’t get you excited to know him, I don’t know what will. Sweet Potato is his partner and an interior designer – NOT an interior decorator. She works with more blueprints than aesthetics, and with Aloha working in construction, they make a good pair. After a long day of 15 miles with that crew ending at a tent site, it was only 5 more miles to Rock Gap. That day saw a lot of action. I crossed mile 100 of the trail and There, we would try to find a ride into Franklin, a town I had never planned on visiting.

The Town at 110

My first impression of Franklin was a shuttle ride in a truck with about a dozen hikers in it. Run by Bobby the Greek, we got five people into the truck itself at Rock Gap and shoved another six into the back with a stop at Winding Stair Gap. Remember, this is eleven hikers and their packs, and all but one of them (me) were headed to the Hilltop Inn.

Although the shuttle was advertised as a $5 service, Bobby didn’t charge a single one of us, and once everyone else was settled at the hotel, he drove me down to the Ingles for a much-needed resupply. This one should last me to my mail-drops at the NOC and Fontana. While driving down, I got to talking with Bobby about where a guy could stay without any reservations in town. What I thought would be a hard question got an immediate answer: The Barn. It’s far enough from the town that most people don’t even know about it, so it ends up acting as the overflow for hikers looking to stay in Franklin. Run by Spidey, a 2018 SOBO, The Barn has been my best hostel experience yet, and to top it all off, it’s donation-based. Spidey actually asks you not to give him more than $20 dollars. Armed with some extra treats from Ingles and new knowledge of a free night’s rest, I now had a plan for my next zero to make absolutely sure that my ankles could heal.

Spidey’s setup took care of me for a good two nights. If you want to hear more about it, Captain Fantastic already wrote an article called “The Breakfast Club” about the first night. It was just me, Captain Fantastic and his daughter Sapling, and two other people, Star Waffle and Thirsty Bear, who were celebrating the life of a recently deceased hostel owner and close friend of theirs named Zen. Most of what was told that night was told in confidence, but I will make one correction to Fantastic’s article. When I was asked what animal I’d be if I could choose, I said I’d be an arctic tern, but one of them misheard that as an arctic turkey and everyone lost their mind for a minute. What I can tell you about is my zero at the barn. I’ve had the whole place to myself all day! Spidey and his wife Shawn make breakfast for the hikers in their house every morning, and everyone is welcome to enjoy their 360 degree mountain view while hanging out on the porch. The hostel itself is a big old barn just down from the house, and where I’ve spent my whole day here is in the TV lounge corner.

The view from The Barn

This is definitely a trail blog, not a movie blog, but I definitely need to mention how big his dvd collection is. I’ve watched The Thing, 21 (the blackjack one), The Amityville Horror, Inglourious Basterds, Hot Tub Time Machine, and The Devil Wears Prada. During these I snacked on some peanut-butter stuffed pretzels I bought specifically for today, some Mountain Dews from a communal fridge, and ramen and TVP with some olive oil and hot sauce from the hostel’s own supply.

This has been a luxurious day for a Thru-Hiker, and I’ve had Spidey and Shawn checking in on me throughout the day to see if I need anything. I had everything I needed though, as I treated my ankles to an epsom salt soak and watched more movies than I have in the last few months. By the time you roll around, there’ll probably be even more beds here because Spidey is looking at buying a shed and dressing it up to be some extra bunks. In other news, I have gotten a trail name by now. It came about during a conversation on my 15 mile day where I was telling all my stories about the mice so far, and the first mouse related name someone thought of was The Pied Piper. It’s Piper for short, and I’ve definitely taken a liking to it. My very first night out here, I apparently slept through mice crawling all over my sleeping bag, so it fits too. This has been a pretty long update, and I think there might not be another until after the Smokies. That’s the second time I’ve said that, so let’s hope that doesn’t jinx it.

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 2

  • Harry Poppins : Apr 1st

    I also highly recommend Terry Pratchett. He has the same snarky Brit humor as Douglas Adams but with an incredible grounding in anthropology and just what goes into being a human. A thru hike on AT while reading Pratchett works should count for 2 to 6 years of higher education.

  • Jennifer : Apr 2nd

    Hope your ankles are healing up Solomon! An elastic brace might be helpful for some extra support as you continue your journey. Once you stretch tendons and ligaments they stay loose for many years. Hang in there!


What Do You Think?