Day 36: Second Zero in Erwin
Zeros are nice, but back to back zeros are tough. There’s only so much you can do on the grounds of a hostel. On the bright side, Fossey and Zia finally caught back up to me. I was so happy to see them again.
We went down to the river to swim and I was immediately reminded why I was waiting for them to catch up. We always have so much fun together.
Playing in the river with the girls.
Some of the other hikers had been giving me a hard time about the fact that I was waiting, saying, “Hike our own hike.” However, reflecting on the last few weeks spent hiking with Fossey and Zia, I realize that they enrich my Appalachian Trail experience and that to hike my own hike is to hike with them.
Day 37: Erwin to Cherry Gap Shelter
We hit the trail with 17 miles in mind. This mileage is not new for me but it is a first for Fossey and Zia. I’m glad that they are willing to attempt bigger miles. The terrain, however, was tougher than anticipated; couple that with the heat and it made for a long day. The top of Unaka Mountain was pretty neat, though, and there was trail magic at a road crossing where I got to enjoy sweet tea and some brownies. I’m always excited for trail magic. I just assumed starting so late (April 15) that I wouldn’t get to experience any on my hike. I’ve been pleasantly surprised so far.
Trail magic with sweet tea, brownies, and fruit.
Day 38: Cherry Gap Shelter to Roan Mountain Shelter
I had a great hike today; back to back 17s! I am very pleased with how well all of us are doing with increased mileage. The climb up Roan Mountain at the end of the day was admittedly tough. It doesn’t seem to matter how long I am on trail, inclines are always a challenge for me. I am constantly reminding myself that the mile I am on is the best mile. It helps keep my spirits up when I’m struggling with difficult terrain.
A white blaze along the climb up to Roan Mountain.
The shelter on top of Roan sits at nearly 6,300 feet, the highest shelter on the entire AT. It was cold and foggy as the sun set, creating an eerie atmosphere. I wish I had taken a picture of it. We are the only thru-hikers here at the shelter tonight; the other shelter guests are all section hikers. I’m starting to notice more section hikers and less thru-hikers. Where did all the other thru-hikers go?
Day 39: Roan Mountain Shelter to Doll Flats Campsite
Today was, by far, my favorite day on the AT yet! The weather was perfect, cool but not cold, and the terrain was rather mild. We hiked over a series of balds, the views from which were awe-inspiring. I took a lot of pictures and I savored every moment.
We live here!
We ended our day at Doll Flats, which is the nicest camping area I’ve had the fortune of setting up my tent at. Also really cool. I made my first fire with the help of Zia’s coaching. It’s days like today that make this whole experience.
My first ever fire!
Day 40: Doll Flats to Mountain Harbour Hostel
Waking up at Doll Flats, it was cool to finally leave North Carolina for good. In just a few days we will leave Tennessee too.
Goodbye North Carolina!
We neroed into Roan Mountain, TN, and the hostel we are staying at, Mountain Harbour, is really nice. They offer real mattresses with linens and they have a food truck on site.
After we dropped our packs, we hitched a ride into town for our resupply. We are becoming champs at the task of hitching rides. I wish there was more rest on a nero, though. The day is filled with domestic tasks, preparing for the next leg of the hike.
Hitchin’ for chicken.
After the sun set and all the “chores” were done, I sat on the back porch of the hostel, watching the fireflies light up the mountainside, staring at the stars in the sky, and listening to the trickle of the brook that runs through the property at Mountain Harbour. It was so peaceful. What a life I get to live. I am grateful to be here.
Day 41: Mountain Harbour Hostel to Mountaineer Falls Shelter
I had the breakfast at the hostel, a lovely buffet spread, well worth the $12. I’m sorry I didn’t get a picture but I do highly recommend it.
We took our time packing up this morning as we only intended to hike 8.5 miles to the next shelter. With two waterfalls along the trail, we wanted to ensure we had plenty of time to enjoy each.
Oh yeah, and this happened.
At Jones Falls we had lunch and soaked our feet in the water. We stayed for over an hour contemplating its beauty.
The Dirty Thirties at Jones Falls.
Mountaineer Falls is like a shower, not as captivating as Jones Falls but lovely in its own right. Fossey and I bathed underneath it. It was cold but we had a lot of fun. How often do you get to shower directly on trail?
Free shower at Mountaineer Falls!
Tomorrow we’re hiking about 18 miles to make up for today being so short. It’s nice to take it easy and appreciate all that the AT has to offer. Sometimes it’s not about the miles.
Day 42: Mountaineer Falls Shelter to Laurel Shelter
It was a relaxing day despite bigger miles. The terrain is definitely easier here in this part of Tennessee. Lots of water sources brought about feelings of peace and tranquility. The icing on the cake was Laurel Falls. I spent an hour at the base of the falls, soaking my feet and simply enjoying the moment. I am finding myself continually experiencing a satisfaction and peace previously unknown.
Reflecting at Laurel Falls.
Day 43: Laurel Shelter to Boots Off Hostel
We neroed into Boots Off Hostel today. Fossey had a rough morning due to a personal issue at home. It caught me off guard as she’s always so cheery. Having just gone through my own bout where my personal life affected my hike, I could empathize with her struggle to remain positive and focus on the task at hand; ie, the hike. It goes to show that no matter where we are, the things at home can have a profound impact on our hiking journeys. Another example of the psychological challenges of the trail. More is constantly being revealed.
Practicing the art of being present.
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