Days 30-36: Hey, Hey!, HEY!!!
My last post ended on Day 21. With this posting, I’m writing up 7-day posts instead of 5-day posts. However, I’m skipping ahead as I lost all my notes of the Day 21-29 period in iNotes on (my stupid) iPhone. One day, my notes disappeared suddenly with an errant move of my big thumb or forefinger. I tell my sad tale of trying to recover them below. After that experience, I now back up my notes now by copying them and sending them to myself. I’ll backfill days 22-29 at a later time – this was a lot of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park section of the AT – once I get caught up. I’ll add more photos at a later date, the computer I’m using at the Super 8 motel is no longer working very well and it’s time to get back on the trail!
Day 30: Laughing Heart Lodge (Hot Springs NC, 1326’) – Zero Day
Number of miles hiked: 0
Total AT miles hiked: 274.9
AT miles left to go: 1925.2
Sadly, this was the long-planned day for Twinkletoes to leave the AT – she had plans to go to RI, ID, and WA – plus she gets claustrophobic in green tunnels. She arranged to have one of the shuttle drivers to take her to Ashville GA airport. The driver met us at breakfast in the lodge around 7:00, we kissed and hugged goodbye. Then I spent the day trying to retrieve my lost iNotes, which had disappeared a few days ago. One of the Apple tech people spent 1 ½ hours with me without resolving anything, and escalated my case to an Apple tech group that specializes in iNotes. He said my case should be “entertaining.” Since he spoke with an accent, I passed off his seemingly callous remark as being something nice to say in his original language that was lost in translation. Then I spent another hour or so with an Apple specialist techy, who got me to successfully download and install the new Apple operating system software with an improved iNotes. That took two hours. Then we had another hour-long conversation. My notes were still not on my phone or in the iCloud backup, but she said to wait a couple of hours until my phone and its newly installed software synched with the nebulous iCloud. After a couple of hours AT blog notes still weren’t anywhere to be found in the stratosphere of Applelandia.
I resupplied at Bluff Mountain Outfitter (picking up a nice pink colored Swiss army knife – that was the only color they had – as I had lost my red one) and the Hillbilly Market in Hot Springs. I decided to move to the Elmer’s Sunnybank Inn as Twinkletoes was gone, so I didn’t need a full room in the Laughing Heart Lodge. Also, the Hostel at Laughing Heart Lodge had too many smokers at it. Although smoking was not permitted in the hostel itself, the place was wreathed in cigarette smoke – there was no designated smoking area outside for smokers. Many hiker hostels on the AT were like that: hikers, as well as managers and staff, would smoke without any regard whatsoever to nonsmokers.
Flower photo of the day: B
View of the day: B
Day 31: Elmer’s Sunnybank Inn (Hot Springs NC) – Spring Mountain Shelter
Number of miles hiked: 11.6
Total AT miles hiked: 285.9
AT miles left to go: 1908.3
I woke up early, showered, packed and wrote Elmer a farewell note. Elmer had been a Peace Corps Volunteer back in the early 1970s and we chatted into the evening about our experiences in the Peace Corps. Then I walked across the street and met B, HW and Gordon for breakfast at the Smoky Mountain Cafe at 7:00. I had a delicious SW omelet, with biscuit, hash browns, stewed apples, coffee and orange juice. Boy was I full when I left!
Then I spent an aggravating 1 hour and 20 minutes trying to connect with an Apple tech advisor to see if Apple could retrieve my disappeared AT blog folder in i-notes. Apple insists on using an automated calling service then you have to press “1” to answer. Only there is no place to press 1 on the screen. You have to fish around on looking for the keypad icon, and by the time I found one it was too late and the automated caller would hang up. I finally got some help just to answer the automated call by texting Apple. Ugh! Finally, I was connected to a tech support person who basically said my AT Blog folder was lost and gone forever, dreadful sorry, Papa Smurf! My folder wasn’t backed up because I didn’t use the iCloud Notes, just Notes which does not back up automatically. I lost nearly two week’s worth of my AT Blog notes! Not to mention hours of my time wasted by Apple’s tech support! Thank you very much Apple!
I finally got back on the Trail a little before 10:00, just in time for it to start raining. I put up my backpack umbrella, crossed the French River outside Hot Springs and headed up the mountain.
The rain didn’t last long. As I climbed out of the river valley I saw or heard many birds: brown thrasher, song sparrow, blue jay, black-throated blue warbler, black-throated green warbler, American crow, oven bird, red-eyed vireo, blue-headed vireo, eastern wood peewee, winter wren, American robin, black-and-white warbler, eastern towhee and others I couldn’t identify. I finally made it out of the valley and up Rich Mountain, where there was a 2/10 mile side trail to the fire tower on top. It was worth the extra climb for the great views all around, especially back towards Hot Springs. I passed or was passed by various other hikers that set up from Hot Springs including Scout and others. I was hoping to get further, but I ended up tenting near Spring Mountain Shelter just before 5:00 pm. But it was good as I caught up with my new tramily: B, Kim, and HW.
View of the day: Mile 300!
Day 32: Spring Mountain Shelter (3536’) – Jerry Cabin Shelter (4146’)
Number of miles hiked: 16.9
Total AT miles hiked: 301.8
AT miles left to go: 1892.6
I woke early to something pawing at my back, which was against the wall of the tent. I was soundly asleep when I yelled ”hey, Hey!, HEY!!!” and woke myself up with the sensation of something having pawed my shoulders still there. I passed it off as a dream, and went back to sleep. When I got up B asked me about the hey, Hey! HEY!!!, and I explained. Maybe it was the dog that belonged to the hiker lady in the shelter? When I started walking down the steep slope to fetch some water from the spring, another hiker was just coming up and asked me: “Did you hear the bear that came through camp last night? It sounded like a big mama bear!” When I asked about it, he said he did not see the bear, only heard it. Well, maybe it wasn’t a dream after all. The ground around my tent was too grassy to see any prints. Bear or dream, it’ll remain a mystery.
I hiked a ways with Will Mcallister, a teacher of third and fifth grades in Kennesaw GA. He told me his story of running a total more than 50 miles over a week or so to each of his student’s homes during Covid. He said he missed his students after not seeing them for nearly two months, so he decided to run to visit each of them outside their homes. The local Fox News channel, amazingly enough, he said, picked up the story. He said he likes hiking the AT, and does a section of it for about 12 days every summer – even though he has had a triple by-pass. His heart doctor says hiking is fine as long as he stay’s hydrated and doesn’t overdo it. Cool guy.
The high point of the day was Camp Creek Bald at 4750’ elevation, though I didn’t go up the lookout tower as there was no view. The Blackstack Cliffs and approaching rocky areas had eastern turkey beard (or bear grass), which I was delighted to see. It’s a plant with thin evergreen leaves in the lily family, just starting to bloom all over. Beautiful. This was the first spot to see the dark pink flowers of Catawba rhododendron blooming – this is the species of rhododendron that blooms at higher elevations in the southern Appalachians. Also passed mile 300 this afternoon! Woohoo!
Flower of the day: Catawba rhododendron (Rhododendron catawbiensis); Heath family (Ericaceae)
Catawba rhododendron is a large, rounded to spreading, multi-stemmed, broadleaf evergreen shrub that typically grows to 6-10’, usually at higher elevations than rosebay rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum), with leaves that are 3-6″ long. The flowers are dark pink to lavender, and bloom in June depending on elevation and latitude.
Day 33: Jerry Cabin Shelter – Hogback Ridge Shelter
Number of miles hiked: 15.6
Total AT miles hiked: 317.4
AT miles left to go: 1878.1
High points of the day included Big Butt Mountain (4815’), which actually has a crack in it, and nearly 15 miles further on, Lick Rock (4522’). Passed Shelton family gravesites from the Civil War era. Also passed some pretty cascades on the way up Lick Rock.
Day 34: Hogback Ridge Shelter – Bald Mountain Shelter
Number of miles hiked: 10.0
Total AT miles hiked: 327.4
AT miles left to go: 1867.0
Nice views from High Rock and some high meadows, then a long climb to over Big Bald Mountain (5516’). I took a lot of flower photos.
Critter of the day: Dark-eyed junco nest, 4 pale eggs with brown spots. The dark-eyed junco (formerly slate-colored junco) makes a small nest at ground level under The female usually builds the open cup-nest in a depression on the ground or a sloping bank, well hidden by vegetation. This was the fourth nest I photographed right on the uphill bank of the trail, inches away from stomping hiker feet. The juncos will fly out from the side of the trail, flashing their white tail feathers on either side of their tails to effectively startle the would be predator.
Day 35: Bald Mountain Shelter – No Business Knob Shelter
Number of miles hiked: 10.6
Total AT miles hiked: 338.0
AT miles left to go: 1856.4
No Business means no latrine, just a shovel, no bear cables and no bear box. Only a water source.
Day 36: No Business Knob Shelter – Mountain Inn, Erwin, TN
Number of miles hiked: 6.2 (+1.1 to hotel)
Total AT miles hiked: 344.2
AT miles left to go: 1851.7
The mean trick: On the way down into Erwin some at put out a red and white cooler at the viewpoint of the Nolichucky River Gorge next to the trail. There was a little sign on the cooler that you couldn’t read from the trail. Instantly we thought of cold beer, or cold sodas, or at least cold water. But no! The sign said “Bibles, please take just one.” We wanted to drop kick off the cliff below the viewpoint. It was chained to a tree though. Plus, nobody wanted to get struck by lightning. Quick hike down to Erwin there, where there was the Uncle Johnny’s Hostel right at the corner of the trail and River Rd. We saw a few familiar faces of hikers already at Uncle Johnnies. I had already made reservations at the Mountain Inn where there was resupply box waiting for me. It was long 1.1-mile hike to the Mountain Inn along the River and then along Interstate 26. The M. Inn was akin to a worn out Holiday Inn right next to the interstate, but did have a pool of with water in it, wifi, and a computer in the lobby that worked. I was in business
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