Springer Mountain to Erwin, TN

I have been in the trail for almost three weeks now and it has been a blast! I have been walking long days for the most part, seeing a lot if beautiful sights and meeting some great people.
Highlights include hiking through my home state of Georgia and spending Easter Sunday with my father who lives near Hiawasee, staying at the Aquone Hostel near Tellico Gap, NC, a chile cheeseburger at the Nantahala Outdoor Center, the Smokies (of course), Hot Springs, NC, Big Bald in NC, and now Irwin, TN where I’m staying at Uncle Johnny’s Nolichucky Hostel. My favorite spot along the trail so far is Charlie’s Bunyon in the Smokies (see photo).
The weather so far has been very favorable with one exception. The day I left the Aquone Hostel I was dropped off with other hikers at Tellico Gap. When we got to the gap the wind was howling and it was raining and sleeting. As we climbed higher there was ice on the trees that would blow off and stung when it hit your face. I made it to the Nantahala Outdoor Center by lunchtime and enjoyed a chili cheeseburger with lots of cheese and a side if tater tots. The waiter recommended it because it had 3000 calories!
After lunch I headed out in the rain to hike another seven miles to the Sassafras Gap Shelter. As I climbed out of the NOC I got back into the ice and it was really severe with the sounds of limbs cracking and trees falling all around. I was very relieved to reach the shelter safely! I normally like to tent because I am a very light sleeper but at Sassafras Gap I stayed in the shelter for fear of falling limbs and trees.
The only other difficult conditions I met were the trails in the Smokies. From Rock Top almost all the way to Davenport Gap the trails were either severely rutted, extremely rocky, full of running water from snowmelt, or slick from snow that had been packed down, partially melted and the refrozen during the night. Those were some hard days hiking on the trails in the Smokies! Fortunately the weather was clear, the views were terrific and no new snow fell while I was there.
I’ve met some great people and have had good hiking partners including Pig Pen, Oxy, and Hurricane (from New Zealand). On the trail hiking partners come and go as hikers get off the trail for a few days or take a zero in a trail town. Fortunately you eventually meet back up down the trail and I look forward to seeing these hikers again.
Right now I am sitting in the deck at Uncle Johnny’s Nolichucky Hostel in Erwin, TN taking my first zero after suffering through a bought with the Norovirus. The virus has gone through the AT hikers and almost no one has been immune to it. It’s a pretty nasty virus and really saps your strength. Yesterday I woke up feeling sick and really struggled to make it 13 miles to Uncle Johnny’s. It took me 7.5 hours to make it 13 miles and I had to stop to rest on uphill sections if the trail. The long descent into Erwin seemed to take forever. I could see the town in the distance but it didn’t seem to be getting any closer!
The folks here at Johnny’s are terrific and will do anything to help hikers. I highly recommend it!
Tomorrow morning I’ll head out and over the next three days I’ll cover the 50 miles to Roan Mountain, TN where my wife will meet me. I’m really looking forward to seeing her and making a few gear adjustments.
Most all of my gear works fine and I’m happy with it but I need to change out a few things. It’s interesting how much you learn after just a few weeks of hiking.
I’ll close for now and try to post more frequently in the future. If you’re interested in more details, I have a daily blog to keep family and friends informed about what I’m doing. You can find it at: walkerat2013.wordpress.com
Here are a few of my favorite photos…the view from Charlie’s Bunyon, a campsite with Pig Pen, Big Bald in NC, and Uncle Johnny.





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