North Carolina/Tennessee, Part Two: Here Comes The Sun
So far, this has been my favorite stretch of trail – everything beyond Erwin to the border between North Carolina and Tennessee has been ridiculously beautiful.
On day 33, I saw Max Patch, stopped at Green Heart Hostel for their famous burgers, and camped on an unmarked site on a bald… but was around a couple other people and slept much better than I had the previous night alone at the shelter.
On day 34, I hiked into Hot Springs, charged up all the devices, then made camp on the banks of the French Broad River.
This was the first day that was genuinely warm out. At 80-something degrees and nowhere near the humidity that Louisiana is subjected to, it was manageable for me. I was definitely going through water faster than normal and felt the all-too-familiar prickle of a growing sunburn on my head, shoulders, and calves.
On day 35, I woke up early, hiked 14 miles from the French Broad River, and discovered that my Sixmoons umbrella is good for rain, snow, and sun. Every day hiker I encountered that day thought it was hilarious and pointed at the cloudless sky, making some kind of remark about there being no rain.
One particularly amused man made sure to not-so-politely inform me that I, a “little girl” (his actual words… I cringe) must not be from the south if the heat was getting to me that bad. I took the opportunity to just-as-politely inform him that I’d have to drive 15+ hours north to get here if coming from my home state. I then blessed his heart and continued on my way.
Every thru-hiker I met on trail that day, however, were far more receptive to the apparently controversial idea of using an umbrella for the sun.
On day 36, I hit 300 miles over the course of an 18.8 mile day. It was my biggest day since the 20 miler in the Smokies, and I felt great – zero knee pain, still no need for taping. It took about a month, but it seems like my trail legs have finally kicked in.
Day 37: This is really where the views started to become more amazing day-by-day. I watched the sun set on Big Bald (better views than Max Patch in my opinion, and remote enough to not suffer from overuse.)
On day 38, I hiked to Uncle Johnny’s hostel in Erwin and camped there after eating WAY too much Mexican food. The next day, I zeroed and got my laundry done (my first shower and laundry since Newfound Gap – desperately needed!)
On day 40, I woke up grouchy after the campfire crowd stayed up talking, keeping me up well past hiker midnight and squashing my hopes of leaving before dawn the next morning. It is what it is.
Otherwise, I had a great stay! Everyone there was friendly, and I was even able to refresh the permethrin on my clothes with a bottle they had open on their shelves – without having to purchase it. Very accommodating and friendly. I hiked over the Beauty Spot (another popular bald) and did 17.2 miles to a shelter area.
On day 41, I woke up very early and booked it to Roan High Knob Shelter for another ~18 mile day. On the way there, a friend I’d been hiking with for a week or so got pretty badly injured, so I helped him get patched up and sent him to town on a shuttle before settling in for the night. I was glad that I’d gotten certified in wilderness first aid, even if it means I’m carrying more first aid supplies than I probably need.
And I’m really thankful for the shuttle driver who dropped everything to drive 2 hours one way to get him off trail – the trail angels, hostel owners, and generous strangers are the absolute lifeblood of the trail. Just the most amazing people that awe me every day with their selflessness.
On day 42, I hiked through the Roan Highlands – the most fantastic views and scenery on trail so far – crossed the border into Tennessee, and made it down to the 19E crossing just in time for my partner to pick me up at 3pm.
I was feeling pretty proud of myself for being on time, since I’d stopped for many picture breaks over the course of a 16+ mile day. 16 miles into Neel’s Gap was what originally injured my knee so badly. Now, just a short time later, it’s a lighter distance I can take into town, and I know exactly how long it’ll take me to do it. I’m thankful that my knee has (seemingly, fingers crossed) recovered fully!
On day 43, I enjoyed the infamous and absolutely ridiculous (meant in the best/most loving way) breakfast from Mountain Harbour, zeroed with my partner, and did laundry. I meant to get some writing done, but slipped into a food coma…
On day 44, yes… I double zeroed, wrote the words you’re reading now, got caught up on photo edits, and sorted through some mail my partner had brought me.
I’m still debating whether or not I want to make my way over to Trail Days. I think at this point, I’ll be past Damascus when it gets going – and I’m not particularly inclined to double back for it, especially after a double zero.
But that’s the beauty of the trail – you can always decide later.
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