On the Road to Damascus

Thoughts and ruminations from the front porch of Boots Off Hostel, high above Wataugas waters.

Towns on Towns on Towns

A quick lightning round review of the three towns I’ve visited recently:

Hot Springs, NC – a cute little one horse town full of hikers! And in case you forgot you were in the South, the bouncer at Spring Creek Tavern open carries.

Asheville, NC – there were like ten breweries in five blocks in this place (no need to check my figures on that). If I died and went to heaven it would have the same ratio of breweries to available real estate.

Erwin, TN – Actually spent three nights here avoiding rain. Uncle Johnnys Hostel offers bikes to ride into town, and I highly suggest not taking the red one with squishy tires and one gear.

Big Bald

The scuttlebutt on trail was “Big Bald is amazing, Big Bald is better than Max Patch, Big Bald rules!” Which of course meant it was windy, rainy, and foggy when we summited on no less auspicious a day than my birthday.

It looked like a proper English moor. One could imagine some ruddy gents going out for a hunt.

“Sir, shall we still go out? Weather looks frightfully awful.”

“Of course, Gillingham! Put on your Wellies and stop putting up a fuss!”

Despite our best efforts, we did not see the Hound of the Baskervilles, although it seemed like he could be hidden in the fog around any corner.

CONTENT WARNING – Slackpacking

After rolling into Uncle Johnny’s hostel in Erwin, El Salvador and I were faced with a conundrum. And that conundrum was rain. Lots of it. One day of steadily worsening thunderstorms followed by a day of chilly steady downpour. El Salvador looked at me and said, “We could slackpack…the dark side is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be…unnatural.”

“Is it possible to learn this power?” I replied.

“…not from a purist.”*

The solution: cheating! We were able to crank out 20 miles going backwards without our packs, finish the day warm and dry in the hostel, and then zero during the chilly stuff. Turns out, cheating pays off!

*Totally direct quotes.

Meeting Cool People

During the aforementioned zero in Erwin, I had the good fortune to have dinner with a couple of really interesting guys, Monk and Diver. Monk thru hiked in 2019 and outfitted his car so he could roam around the country and go on whatever adventure struck his fancy. He’d met Diver doing a section in 2019 and was picking him up at the end of another section. I don’t think I’ve met two guys more knowledgeable about shoes, they talked to the outfitter in Erwin about footwear for like thirty minutes.

Roan-in Around

The Roan Highlands were the best section of the AT so far, full stop. A full day of wide open grassy summits, incredible views, and the chance to turn Little Hump and Hump Mountain into hilarious innuendo. Far and away my favorite day on trail.

When we got to Jane Bald, I was inspired to actually write some music. When I turn it into an album I think I’ll call it…Songs About Jane. Nobody’s done that before I bet.

Trail Days Awaits

It’s 42 miles to Damascus, we’ve got a full tank of Ramen, a half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark out, and we’re both wearing sunglasses. Hit it.

Final Thought

I got a chance to swim in the Nolichucky River in Erwin. I found out it’s always wanted to be called the Nolicharles River, but nobody takes it seriously.

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Comments 1

  • Tim Oaks : May 15th

    Stoked to hear about the good peops. I love how through hikes allow people to meet and hike together, part – and come across each other sometimes again and again, because of rest days, temptations, distractions, and sometimes just a need for a few days break from travel companions.


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