To Hampton and Beyond
Today, I’m thankful to be sitting inside at Bear’s Den Resort at Dennis Cove, TN while it’s drizzling and foggy outside. I am also thrilled that I have the time and a computer to blog again. I’ve kept up with my social media accounts/pictures over the last couple months, but I admit I have been terrible about not blogging enough, and I sincerely apologize to my follower who asked if Panda and I are ok and where we are (and anybody else who wondered, but didn’t ask). I’m happy to say we are both fine and having a wonderful time!
Obviously a ton of things have happened in the time since my last blog post, but I am going to try to not bore you with a lengthy, wordy post and just hit the highlights.
The first big “event” on my hike was my hiking partner Stop-N-Go getting off the trail just after Hiawassee. It was two weeks in, the same day I crossed the Georgia/North Carolina border and the day I found my second trail family.
The further up I went out of town the foggier and rainier it got, which actually led to several neat pictures. It drizzled off and on all day and I was super excited when I reached the state line. I hiked to the next shelter just a few miles away and set up camp with fellow thru-hikers Wyatt Earp, Cold Turkey, and Stitches. I went on to travel with them for over a week before we drifted into different hiking speeds.
Several days after separating from Wyatt Earp I learned he had gotten off trail for various health and family issues. Cold Turkey, later renamed Yard Sale after an encounter with a bear rummaging through his pack, eventually rejoined my hiking group, and Stitches and I hiked together for a couple weeks before picking up Pikey at Fontana.
The Smokies were a tough section, but had some beautiful views that made it worth it of course. I spent two unplanned zeros in Gatlinburg with Pikey and Stitches, which led to my longest day of hiking even as of now, 24.5 miles. I was more than ready to be through that section and rejoin Panda at Standing Bear Hostel.
As most people know by now the A.T. has been plagued with fires this year. The drastic increase in thru-hikers and incredibly dry season is a recipe for disaster and a disaster it has been. There have been fires all up and down the trail, at least 4 that I’m aware of: close to Max Patch, Hot Springs,Roan Mountain, and the Shenandoahs.
I have been fortunate thus far in avoiding the fire except in Hot Springs and even then it could have been much worse. The fire reached the mountains next to Hot Springs the afternoon I was planning to hike out so instead of being rescued from the trail as many hikers were I was merely evacuated from the trail along the river where I was camped.
As far as trail towns go Hot Springs has been my favorite by far. My company was great, the tavern provided delicious food options, and the Hiker’s Ridge Ministry was the perfect hang out. The atmosphere was something close to summer camp meets Starbucks and it was run by “Queen Diva,” one of the friendliest, kindest women you will ever meet. Each day the coffee pot stayed full, the room was filled with the sweet aroma of freshly-baked cookies, and hikers congregated on couches and porches with chatter and laughter.
Naturally, there was a bit of a bottleneck as more and more thru-hikers arrived and everyone waited to hear when we could get back on the trail. Queen Diva checked with local officials periodically and kept us informed while providing great conversations the rest of the time. Most hikers chose to shuttle around the trail closure after we were told it would be closed for at least a week.
I was happy to spend an extra day hanging out in town with Pikey and Crispi before being taken to Allen Gap (15 mile mark out of Hot Springs) by Pikey’s parents (also some of the nicest people you will ever meet) and that was the day I met Cash Money, another welcome addition to our growing group.
Dennis Cove, TN
The last two months have flown by and I can’t believe I’ve already been on the trail so long. I have gone much slower than planned and have a lot of miles to make up to hit my deadline in August, but I am confident it will happen and I wouldn’t change my trip to this point even if I could. Each zero and nero has been well spent meeting new people, trying new things, and enjoying the majesty of the mountains.
Panda and I are having a blast and feeling great! We’ve spent several days slack-packing this week with Chris, a section hiker from my first trail family. We’ve all enjoyed that and we are at mile 418, just 8.5 miles from Hampton, TN, which we will hit tomorrow, and close to 100 miles shy of our 1/4 mark. Less than 50 miles to Virginia!
I will do my best to blog much more frequently and keep everyone updated!
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I will do a thru-hike on the AT once (if not twice!) in my life. Love to hear your take on it and I love your style of writing. Glad to hear that you’re doing well! Happy trails!