So Erwin was a blast! So much so that our last night ended with a party at Uncle Johnny’s Hostel, and a lot of people sleeping under a bridge. I lost Frisbee in a drunken stupor during the night and sheltered myself from the slight drizzle falling from the sky by positioning myself under the awning of a church (which gave very little coverage, by the way). Funny enough Frisbee was sleeping under the awning of the very same church on the other side of the building. We hiked out of town, but only made it about 4 miles to the first shelter before calling it a day. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones hungover since on the way there, we passed a “body” laying in the brush with their tent draped over top of them surrounded by beer cans. We spent the day warning others of the wonky picnic table which dropped a few people, laying out in the sun, and suckering passing trail friends to spend the night there with us. We were fairly successful given most everyone was hungover and feeling very unenergized.
It was a rainy night, and a foggy walk through Beauty Spot Gap. We saw our first Black Bear! Well, I sort of did. Frisbee was walking in front of me and stopped in his tracks. When I peeked around him to see what he was looking at, I saw a big, black, fluffy butt running up the trail (Frisbee saw the whole bear). I was so excited, although I was a little sketched out for the first quarter mile, since we didn’t see where it ended up going.
We had another gathering at the Cherry Gap Shelter where we joked about cutting off limbs to reduce our weight, and people foraged for ramps while also finding “trail carrots.” I discussed plans of capitalizing off of Waterbug by making him into a talking pull-string action figure as he paraded around the fire in his underwear yelling, “Burn it!” “Anybody got any weed?” and “Bags and bags of Molly!”
Another black-out drunk night was to be had the following day at the Greasy Creek Hostel over pizza and a rain storm, that several of our friends trekked out into during the night (and unfortunately, they only made it to the top of the hill). The next day, we enjoyed hot dogs and burgers, thanks to some trail angels, and then experienced our first real snow day as we climbed Roan Mountain. We had plans to meet up with some others at Roan High Knob Shelter (the highest shelter on the AT), and stay the night there, but we were glad we didn’t! It was freezing and everyone decided to bypass it.
Fortunately, we pushed on to Overmountain Shelter where pretty much everyone else stayed. The converted barn shelter looked like a cross between a meat locker and a refugee camp. It was only supposed to house about 20 people, but we easily squeezed over 30 on the top level alone. People were crammed tightly together to keep warm and gear was dangling from the rafters. I’m not one to complain about a privy, but there was no roof, so my butt nearly got stuck to the seat when I used it in the middle of the night (think: “A Christmas Story”).
The next day led to some treacherous hiking. It was cold and windy, which is tolerable to some degree, but the trail was also deeply trenched, narrow, and extremely muddy. Every time there was a gust of wind, I was worried that I would either fall down into the slop or snap my ankle. Trekking poles saves lives! The Roan Highlands are supposed to have some of the most beautiful views on the AT, unfortunately all we saw was fog.
Hump Mountain seemed like a never ending climb, which would have been less strenuous if we had more traction. A group of day hikers or slack-packers (hikers who are dropped off without the bulk of their gear and picked up by a vehicle at a planned destination), passed us from the opposite direction as we were climbing, and I was so angry at the situation I was in that I felt like tripping them down the hill (not cool, I know, but I was grumpy. Don’t judge me).
Needless to say, I was overjoyed when we arrived at the final North Carolina/Tennessee border crossing at Doll Flats!
We rounded together a few hikers at US-19 where we found a bunch of flyers for nearby hostels. I had no cell reception, but fortunately our buddy Crank did and she reserved a few spots for us at an up and coming hostel in Roan Mountain, TN (so new, it didn’t have a name). After all the intensity of the past several days, it was nice to be around a hot shower, a warm meal at Bob’s Dairyland, to cuddle with puppies, and enjoy some great hospitality (thank you, David)!
Total AT Mileage: 378.7 miles
Number of Hiking Days: 32
Number of Zero Days: 8
Average Mileage per Day Total: 12.2 miles
Average Mileage this Chapter: 10.2 miles (5 days)
Longest Hiking Day: 26.2 miles (Groundhog Creek Shelter, NC/TN to Hot Springs, NC)
Shortest Hiking Day: 4.3 miles (Erwin, TN to Curly Maple Gap Shelter, TN)