Special thanks to my mom and dad who have been doing some quality control, proofreading, and adding extra pictures to my posts. I hope that this had made it easier to read.
4/9 Hot Springs NC to Allen Gap (14.8 miles)
Bevo and I got an early start out of Hot Springs at 7:30. We started off with a tough 3000 ft climb. I am starting to really enjoy the uphills since my trail legs are final starting to fully come in.
We reached a fire tower around 11:30 that was a short .2 mile blue blaze (side trail with water/shelter/view). There were some great views from the top, but there were really high winds (>40 mph) so we didn’t last to long up there.
Around 2:30 pm we reached the road where Bevo had found a hostel to pick us up. The owner arrived shortly there after, and took us to his 39 day old hostel. It looked pretty sketchy (even for a hiker hostel) on the outside, but the inside turned out to be pretty nice with triple decker bunk beds. He told us that they were $2 burgers with $0.50 buns. He was very clear that he was selling is raw meat that Bevo would cook for us, since he didn’t have a health certificate to cook food. Bevo did a good job cooking them, but even the 1/2 pound burger was not close to enough to fill me up, so Bevo and I split a pizza and I had some more snacks.
That evening, Bevo and I disagreed about what to do tomorrow. He is a much bigger fan of sleeping in hostels/motels and slackpacking than I am. I wanted to just hike on tomorrow, but he wanted to slackpack. I relented and gave in on the slackpack and another night at the hostel. We have so far been able to settle our disagreements on slackpacking and hostels, but I fear that we might separate (hopefully only for a little bit) when we can’t reach a compromise on what to do. I hope that doesn’t happen, but we both need to hike our own hike.
We also saw this sign that is being consumed by the tree
Bevo and I got picked up at around 8:30 for a Slackpack back to a hostel. We got picked up by a very interesting guy who was native to this part of rural Tennessee. We couldn’t fully understand anything that came out of his mouth, but he was full of very interesting stories. This included a story about a nudist colony in the area where all of the people only wear animal pelts.
It was a tough climb to start the day, but there were some really cool views from the top, but none that could be captured well on a camera.
I tried out listening to podcasts while waking today. I don’t think it will be an everyday sort of thing for me, but I think it could be a good thing for me to do on long boring days or when I don’t have anyone to walk with.
4/11 Rector Laurel Road to Bald Mountain Shelter (15.9 miles)
Bevo and I started the day off with a good sized climb (1500 ft) up to Lick Rock. I feel really good during these morning climbs (even if the views are disappointing). These are the time I really feel my trail legs really coming in. There wasn’t much to see at the top, but there was a pretty good view from the gap that immediately followed the summit.
Around lunch time we reached Sam’s Gap, where a 2007 thru-hiker, Quiet Paul, was giving out trail magic of hash browns, scrambled eggs, and cookies. He gave us each huge plates of hash browns and 4 eggs. I quickly devoured mine, but still felt hungry so I proceeded to have several spoonfuls of peanut butter and half of a cookie my mom was kind enough to send to me at Hot Springs. I continue to be amazed by trail magic and the people who do it (not to mention how good eggs and hash browns can taste).
After lunch we headed up to a very cool meadow, where I waited for Bevo to catch up.
After that I got way ahead of Bevo to ensure that I would have a spot in the shelter tonight during the rain. There was about a 2000 ft climb over Bald Mountain between me and the shelter. This climb felt a lot harder than the one in the morning, even though they weren’t actually much different.
The views from the top of Bald Mountain were well worth the climbs. I was sure to stop and enjoy the views at the top. We ended up being the first and third people in the shelter, but it quickly filled up within 1 hour of our arrival. Thankfully this is the nicest shelter we have seen in the last several days.
It is suppose to rain all day tomorrow, so we are hoping to get an early start and end up in Erwin,TN as early as possible to dry out. We gained another day on our schedules since Hot Springs, so I think we are going to take another rest day in Erwin. We are planning on staying with Rob, who a man name Red Beard told Bevo about in Atlanta (http://www.postholer.com/journal/Appalachian-Trail/2016/BevoHi/2016-03-19/Day-0-Marriott-15hrs-S-of-trail/53846).
4/12 Bald Mountain Shelter to Spivey Gap (5.7 miles)
Bevo and I got an early start today and it was the first day we really had to walk in the rain. Bevo described it as “miserable” and after about 1.5 hours Bevo gave Rob a call to see if he could come pick us up at the nearby gap, rather than hike the additional ten miles that we had planned. I was pretty disappointed that he wimped out of the hike so quickly, but I didn’t want to hassle Rob to have to pick me up later in the day, so I finished my day as well.
Rob pulled up in a white van offering us sodas. We hoped into the back of his van (which had no seats), just a couple of van chairs and off we went to his house. Stitch (another thru hiker staying here) accurately described the experience as breaking every safety rule her mother taught her as a child. But like many things on the AT, people are so trusting, kind, and honest that these types of things work, despite economic forces that might suggest they wouldn’t.
Rob might be the coolest person I have met on the trail yet. He use to run a free hostel in Massachusetts until 2012, at which point he retired and moved down here to Tennessee to rent an apartment the was owned by the grandfather of a former thru hiker who he had taken to the hospital to get treated for Lyme disease. He now lets a few thru hikers who he meets via his trail magic or referred to him by former guests (like Bevo and I) stay at his house and gives rides to wherever they need to go for whatever we feel comfortable donating. His generosity is incredible.
We talked to him about how he ran his hostel in MA and he said it was all via word of mouth (i.e. not in any of the guidebooks). He said that aside from the higher utility costs, he only spent about $1500 a season of his own money. All the rest of the expenses (toilet paper, food, gas, etc) was all paid for by the thru hikers staying there. When he was nearing retirement, a section hiker who was helping him out with some maintenance put out a retirement jug for him and he raised $7500 over several seasons just from donations.
Bevo and I treated him to dinner (the other thru hikers staying with him, Stitch and Brief Thief, bought him some trail magic to give out to future hikers) as a small token of our gratitude because he doesn’t accept money.
I needed to get a new fuel bottle since the one that I bought in Hot Springs leaks. I went with the bottle that the Heet fuel (you can also use denatured alcohol, http://www.goldeagle.com/brands/heet) comes in. It is bigger that I would have liked, but it won’t leak. It’s often hard to beat the simple when it comes to cheap and lightweight on the trail.
So far the stove is working well. I use a little more fuel than Bevo says is needed, but I find it gets my food cooked more fully. I definitely think it is worth the weight savings.
I also bought Guthooks Guide, a phone app that uses GPS to tell you where you are on the trail, how far away the next campsite/water/town is. Bevo has it and it is very cool. It was sort of pricey ($60), but that works out to about $0.50/day for the remainder of the trip so I think it will be well worth it (particularly when I think I have gone off the trail or take a wrong turn).
As I have mentioned before, Bevo has a much better blog, so if you want to read more about Rob (or any of our other days) check it out (postholer.com/bevohi).