On The Trail: Week 5
Thursday, March 31st
Jerry Cabin Shelter to Hogback Mountain Shelter
The wind is wild and the clouds are dark when we wake up. Thankfully, no rain – yet. We take our time this morning, only anticipating a 15 mile day. We lull through the day, discussing our game plan for Erwin when we arrive on Saturday after a hero. McDonalds, Huddle House, and WalMart are all definite stops on our list. A reasonably priced Super 8 will also be the perfect place to stay being centrally located in town and providing us all of our thru-hiking necessities. A shower and a place to hang our wet gear are a must, along with the luxury of crap TV. It starts to rain as the afternoon hits, but the prospect of a dry shelter keeps us moving. Unfortunately when we arrive, the shelter is full and we are forced to find a tent spot. The rain isn’t at a full downpour, so we manage to get the tent set up without a struggle. We make dinner on the picnic bench that has been stuffed into the opening of the shelter, and we dodge the sopping wet items of gear and clothing as we cook. Dry clothes feel good, after trail burritos and Life Saver Gummies, as we get into the tent for the evening. I fall asleep hoping it won’t be pouring when we wake up. Before going to bed, we discuss plans to get a shuttle at Sam’s Gap in the morning into Erwin a day early. It sounds nice with the prospect of more rain tomorrow.
Friday, April 1st
Hogback Mountain Shelter to Erwin Super 8
We wake up and it’s damp, but no rain. That makes packing up the tent and getting out this morning easier. The sound of getting into town today still sounds appealing, so we plan to make it the 2+ miles to Sam’s Gap, where we’ll be picked up by Hiker Shuttles at 9:00am. As we pack up, Ron Jon hears word of our plan and gets in on the shuttle too. We’re out of camp just before 8:00am, and we make it to the parking lot with fifteen minutes to spare. We use the extra time to visit with Quiet Paul, a Trail Angel out this morning cooking up scrambled eggs and hash browns. It feels good to have a warm breakfast, especially since we skipped having some at camp this morning in our haste to get to town. We thank him and say our goodbyes as the shuttle arrives. It takes no time at all to get into town, and we get dropped off at the Super 8 and checked in before 10:00am to make the most of our day. As always, a shower comes first, and as always, it feels phenomenal to be clean again. Second order of business is hanging our damp gear. The cuben fiber is easy to dry, although the mud gets everywhere. Now time to seek food. Even after being fed by Trail Magic, we’re still ravenous for cheeseburgers. McDonalds seems to taste better and better each time we’re in town. The Food Lion is down the street, and we head that way to resupply and scope out possible laundry opportunities along the way. Unfortunately the laundromat is closed, which means we’ll be doing laundry in our bathroom sink tonight. Oso, The Rock, Bigfoot, and Jeffrey are all staying at the Super 8 as well, although they made it to River Road before coming into town. They let us know that Uncle Johnny’s Nolichucky Hostel is shuttling everyone to the WalMart around 5:30pm, and we hang around the room relaxing until it arrives. There’s a large group of us, and we all get a table at Las Jalapenos for some delicious Mexican grub before our resupply. WalMart has been the only place I’ve been able to find Tyson Chicken packets, and thankfully there are four left on the shelf that I quickly snag. We also find the motherload of honey buns – $0.50 each for 590 calories. Jackpot. After the shuttle back, we organize our food stash and set some things aside to bounce to ourselves in Damascus. The rest gets packed away to get us to Hampton. We watch TV until we fall asleep, glad to have a bed for the evening.
Saturday, April 2nd
Erwin Super 8 to Whistling Gap
We wake up and immediately make our way to Huddle House for a stacked breakfast. Snap is there with Eggman, who is a section hiker down for the week. We ask him if he wouldn’t mind giving us a ride back to Sam’s Gap, and he said he’d be glad to head that way a little while after breakfast. He agrees to rendezvous back at the Super 8 lobby around 10:00am, and we head back to finish up packing after breakfast. I fit in one last shower and haul my now full pack down to the lobby. Eggman drives us to the Post Office to send our bounce box before we’re back on our way to the trailhead. We get back on white blazes with our sites set to getting to Virginia. On the way up to the balds, we meet back up with Mambo. She’s a sight for sore eyes, and it feels good having the four of us back together momentarily. Ghost Walker and Walnut are just ahead of her too, and we pass them on our way to Whistling Gap. They’re all staying at the shelter tonight, but the tentsite we’re heading to is a few miles further. It gets windy as the day gets longer, and we hear there’s a cold front coming through this next week. By the time it gets dark, we’re fed and the camp chores are done. There’s a chill in the air tonight, but we manage to stay warm in our sleeping bags.
Sunday, April 3rd
Whistling Gap to Curley Maple Gap Shelter
It’s freezing when we wake up, and the wind rips right through our layers. We eat in the tent and then pack up quickly, needing to get moving soon to stay warm. I miss the warmth we had in Georgia, and find myself wishing dearly for summer weather to come. Ron Jon is long gone by the time we get going, but we expect to catch up with him throughout the day. It warms up a little as we make our way down to River Road where Uncle Johnny’s is. We stop in to grab our packages, one we had bounced to ourselves and the other from Hyperlite Mountain Gear filled with stuff sacks, business cards, a new sit pad to test, and snacks. We’re also expecting a package from Feathered Friends with the pair of vests that they’re graciously sending us. We discover later that the package arrives the day after leaving, but Uncle Johnny is kind enough to bounce it to Damascus. Bubbles, Ass Captain, and Manchild are all staying the night, but since we’ve made our rounds in Erwin already we push on the 4+ miles to the next shelter. The weather is much more tame tonight, making it comfortable to sit around the fire after a 17+ mile day. The shelter here is nice too, and we sleep well on the top floor.
Monday, April 4th
Curley Maple Gap Shelter to Greasy Creek Friendly Hostel
Today makes one month on the trail. Hard to believe we’ve been out here that long. We plan in the morning as we look at the AWOL to only make it around 18 miles for the day, but decide later that we’re feeling good enough to push on for our first 20+ mile day. There’s a reasonably priced hostel a little less than a mile off trail, so we set our sights to head there for the evening. It’s only $10 for a bunk at the Greasy Creek Friendly Hostel, run by owner “Cool Cousin CeeCee”. We let Ron Jon know of our plans as we catch up to him just before the 20 mile mark, and he agrees to tag along. It’s around 6:00pm when we arrive, and we’re greeted by Morning Wood who is overseeing the hostel while CeeCee is out in town. We take turns showering and drink down sodas completely exhausted. Ghostbusters 2 is on, and I’m happy to kick back and watch a cheesy old movie. Morning Wood is a fellow Mainer, and we all go back and forth with oh so familiar accents and phrases from our homeland. CeeCee brings pizza back for us from Little Caesars – another fantastic treat for our mileage today. There’s a fiasco in the bunkhouse later in the evening after we accidentally lock Ron Jon because of the poorly designed door. I’ve never felt so bad, but I know it will end up being a story we all laugh about when we’ve all reached Katahdin. Sleep comes in no time as we hear rain hit the roof of the bunkhouse.
Tuesday, April 5th
Greasy Creek Friendly Hostel to Overmountain Shelter
We wake up after a good nights sleep, but it’s cold the moment we step out of the bunkhouse. CeeCee is up already with coffee and serving hot breakfast, which is exactly what we need before out hike over Roan Mountain – one of the last 6,000 foot peaks for the remainder of the trail. Overmountain Shelter is a converted barn over 18 miles away, so we start our day after hugging CeeCee goodbye and thanking her for her hospitality. I feel dizzy on our way up, but continue in autopilot until we reach the peak. There’s frost on everything from last night, but the top is warm for the moment. We lay on the grassy bald and shut our eyes for a moment, only to wake half an hour later. I feel better now, and we finish out the day over the remaining balds. The barn comes into view after our descent, just as the cold begins to come in again. The shelter fits a suggested amount of 20 people, but we fill it with an assortment of thru-hikers and section hikers. Three Jacks is here, as well as Disco, Scuba, and Gadget– a group of northbounders we met earlier in the day. We get our sleeping pads and sleeping bags set up in the upstairs loft before gathering around the fire and starting dinner. The stars come out as dark shrouds the valley below. It’s cold, and after dinner we find it hard to take ourselves away from the warmth of the fire. Eventually we crawl into bed upstairs. I sinch the hood of my mummy bag and cocoon myself inside.
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