Miles 300-400: Jerry Cabin Shelter to Elk River
From Jerry Cabin Shelter the trail descends through several gaps, streams, and roadbeds to Devil Fork Gap. High Rock offered a limited view due to fog. Weather completely blocked the view of Big Bald but the experience of hiking on a bald ridge through the fog was an experience all its own. From there, it was (mostly) all downhill to Erwin, TN. Uncle Johnny’s on the Nolichucky is a must, if for nothing else, a 40 cent Snickers bar! Coming out of Erwin isn’t too steep but a gradual incline up to Beauty Spot. We watched the sunset there with a group of friends. Unaka Mountain summits amidst a dense spruce forest. Little Rock Knob was a highlight for us, not only for the views but also the great name! Hiked up to Tollhouse Gap and from there to Doll Flats was one of our favorite sections so far, the Roan Highlands. Round Bald and Jane Bald are connected by exposed ridgeline. We stayed at the historic Overmountain Shelter, a barn that was converted in the 1980’s and named after the Overmountain Men that hiked this area during the Revolutionary War. Little Hump and Hump Mountain gave us great views the following day. Jones Falls was an excellent conclusion to these 100 miles at 398.5. From there, we hiked a short distance and set up camp on the Elk River, right around 400ish.
Highlights and Surprises
The AT is known as being a social trail. This year may be the busiest in history due to recent movies and recognition amongst the general population. Hikers come to the AT from all over the world. We have met several Germans, Wishing Bone is from Bejing, and Colin from the UK. During the day, we typically hike on our own and might leap frog a few people throughout the day or get passed altogether. On the weekends, we may see a handful of day hikers, usually hiking the opposite direction and always smelling nice. At night is when the party gets started! The shelters and tent sites are where you really meet people. During parts of our hike, that may include 20-30 other hikers. Typically, we camp with 10-12 others. There is a general sense of community that is stronger than anywhere else I’ve ever been. Community is easily shared because we all have the same, singular goal: hike North.
Tent camping is our favorite but sometimes a shelter is nice. Shelters vary by who maintains them. They are all built by volunteers so different groups use different styles. They typically have 3 walls and sleep 6-12 people. Usually there is an overhang on the front and some have a picnic table or some sort of shelf to put your stove for cooking. A lot of the sites feature a composting privy and bear cables for hanging food at night. On day 36, we walked up to Clyde Smith shelter just in time to hear sudden, roaring thunder. We decided to grab a spot and soon after a raging storm came through the valley. A group of strangers huddled together in a small shelter. Claudia was cooking dinner at the time and was splashed with muddy water from the force of the rain outside the overhang. (Does a mud bath count as a shower?) Throughout the night we had one storm after the next. We were very grateful for the shelter and the volunteers that built it.
Without getting into too much detail, we have hit our first big run of trials. We knew this day would come. Zach Davis, author of Appalachian Trials, knew this day would come. Every imaginable human emotion has come and gone within the past 400 miles. Luckily, the highs are very high and the lows are just the price we pay. Say a little prayer if you think of us.
Foraging for ramps (wild onions) has been a fun way to connect with Mother Nature. It is a good ol’ fashioned rampfest around here! The cover photo is of a hillside covered in wild ramps, trillium, and mayapples. The ramps are so fresh and sweet right now that you can eat them raw or cook them. For $30/lb at the farmer’s market, you can try some of our ramp recipes below!
A kind Trail Angel that follows the pack Northbound throughout the season and started the Birdcage Hostel in Vermont
Favorite Recipes from 4th 100 miles
Sautee 4 ramp bulbs with 8 oz. rehydrated mushrooms in ¼ cup olive oil. Add 2 liters water and 1 cup quinoa (soaked), 1 cup couscous, 1 packet beef broth flavoring, leaves from the ramps, 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper. Serve as a brothy soup.
Sautee 4 ramp bulbs with ½ Tbsp. dried jalapeños in ¼ cup olive oil. 1 cup rice, ½ cup ham TVP, ¼ cup dried mushrooms, ¾ Tbsp salt, generous pepperoni slices
Boil 2 ramps (bulb and leaves) with 1 pinch of dried jalapeño, 2 cups black beans, 2 cups bacon TVP, salt & pepper
Where We Stayed/Mileage
Hogback Ridge (15.1), Bald Mt (10.1), No Business Knob (10.6), Uncle Johnny’s (6.2), Beauty Spot Gap, down trail (12.3), Clyde Smith (13.9), Overmountain (15.6), Elk River (15.3)
Squirrels, chipmunks, salamanders, mice, birds
What We’re Reading
Still Alice by Lisa Genova (Claudia) and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (Andrew)
Trail Beta for Future Hikers
- If you are seeking solitude, this may not be the trail for you. Consider hiking Southbound rather than Northbound or consider the Pacific Crest Trail.
- Uncle Johnny’s on the Nolichucky is a great stop. Tent camping there is very cheap, so ask about that first. He has B/L/D shuttles and 40 cent Snickers. He cares about hikers.
- The Roan Highlands would be an excellent section or weekend hike. You could shuttle from Tollhouse Gap to US 19E. It’s one of the most scenic sections so far. Panoramic views abound because there are no trees!
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