As I prepare to enter Virginia I look back at the photos that have captured my Journey thus far. In this entry, I have compiled some of my favorite highlights of North Carolina and Tennessee. 

Franklin, NC


     Franklin has been my favorite town stop on the trail. We stayed at “The Grove Hostel” run by AT veterans Newfound and Unfiltered. We put on some loaner clothes, did our shopping at Walmart, and enjoyed a Chinese buffet. In the morning before we headed back to the trailhead we were treated to a wonderful breakfast by the town’s First Baptist Church. They told us stories and we wrote postcards to our friends and families about our emotional 100-mile milestone.

Water Features

     The day after leaving Franklin was a beautiful one. I pulled out my camera, extended my exposure, and began taking photos of the gorgeous mossy water features that crossed the trail.

The Fontana Hilton

     After an arduous day of hiking in the rain, I made my way down to the Fontana Dam Marina. I sat with my group and several other hikers till we decided to make a break for the Fontana Dam shelter also known as The Fontana Hilton. The Hilton overlooks the beautiful Fontana Lake and is within walking distance from the tallest dam on the East Coast. We decided after a long day to Zero at the shelter. Our group got some wonderful trail magic, went swimming in the lake, and went into town to resupply an amazing breakfast and lunch. We also walked down to the dam and wandered around the TVA center. 

Smoky Mountain 

     The Smokies were an emotional roller-coaster. The weather was forever changing between sun, snow, and rain which made it impossible to get used to the weather from day to day. This mixed with some old memories of my life resurfacing made for some frustrating and emotional days. With that being said it also created some of the most beautiful scenery thus far on the Appalachian Trail. The sheer awesomeness of the mountains, combined with the rolling clouds created some of the most awe-inspiring moments of my hike. There were also some of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen and a cold, but brilliant morning at Charlies Bunion. The Smokies also created some of my favorite moments of my thru-hike. My group had our first successful hitch in and out of the eccentric town of Gatlinburg, we performed karaoke at a local bar for a fellow thru-hikers birthday, and we learned how to play the card game hearts under a stairwell. All in all the Smokies were an amazing experience that I wouldn’t change for the world.

Max Patch

     The day that we summited Max Patch was an amazing one. We started around 5:00 in the morning, received 3 trail magic meals throughout the day, and summited Max Patch to watch the beautiful sunset with some of our friends and fellow thru-hikers. 

Uncle Johnny’s

Early on in my thru-hike, I heard 2 hikers discuss that Erwin, Tennessee is when hikers begin sleeping I’m McDonald’s lawns. While I don’t quite see myself pitching a tent under the golden arches any time soon I did begin to feel myself embracing the culture of thru-hiking fully in Erwin. Our group of 5 decided to get a cabin at Uncle Johnny’s Hostel upon entering Erwin so that we could utilize a kitchen and cook a full dinner. We made a delicious tofu curry meal and guacamole before settling into a night of painting our fingernails and listening to music. In the morning we ate breakfast at McDonalds and went swimming until we decided to hike. We hiked a short distance to a nice camp spot, sparked up a fire, and cooked bratwurst over the open flame.

Roan Highlands

     There is a uniqueness to the balds of North Carolina and Tennessee, but none quite compare to the magnificence of the big balds of the Roan Highlands. With jagged rocks protruding from the grassy fields, stunning wildflowers, and elegant grasses the Roan Highlands conjure an image of “Braveheart” or “Lord of the Rings”. These highlands will be a spot that I re-visit once my thru-hike is complete.


     For some time now the rain has been pounding and exhaustion has begun to kick in, so the Postal Service decided to Zero in the town of Hampton at Boots off Hostel. Before we could do that we needed to complete our first 20-mile day with a massive climb at the end of the day. We finally made it to the hostel late in the afternoon just in time for the shuttle to Subway. Stayed at the hostel, played music, and relaxed under the dry gazebo. We spent the next day recuperating from the long wet days we had just endured. We spent time at the lake and enjoyed a nice swim before going into town to fill our bellies and resupply for our short 2-day haul into Virginia. After one of the best night sleeps I have ever had in my life we hiked on; setting ourselves up for the Marathon into Damascus, VA.



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.

What Do You Think?