North Carolina / Tennessee
Day: 38 Total Miles 391.9
The first night in North Carolina, April 16, was a great one. This night at Betty Creek I met two new hikers, Byron and Hair. Bryon on first sight was slightly quiet, but after you get to know him he’s great, he is full of life and stories. We had a great campfire and were enjoying each others company but it got cut short because of rain. The next day we hiked to Winding Stair Gap and hitched into Franklin, NC. It was pretty amazing I was hiking with six guys, Hair, Gator and his dog Swamp Donkey, Hook, Solsberry Hill, Red, and we all fit into a tiny red Ranger. We took a zero day in Franklin and had a great time, which included a full meal at the Roadhouse which included hot wings, ribs and some beers. I also was able to go to Outdoor 76 which is an outfitter and look for new shoes. My feet grew almost a size bigger from all the walking so I had to get a larger pair. The next three days were spent trying to get to the Nantahala Outdoor Center which is 28 miles away from Franklin. The NOC is is a tiny little community based on fly fishing for trout and kayaking. During those three days we climbed two separate observation towers, being able to see the extended mountain ranges in a 360 was breathtaking. Our hike out of the NOC was breathtaking in a literal sense. We climbed over 3000 feet and hiked ten miles to Locust Cove Gap. This was a great spot and it seemed that everyone had the same idea as we did. In one tiny little gap we fit over 20 tents and 30 people which was pretty amazing. We pushed out 18 miles from Locust Cove and made it to Fontana Dam. The lake at Fontana Dam was awesome but “the village” wasn’t because we were low on food and were forced to buy overpriced Ramen noodles and Rice sides from the only general store within a 20 mile radius. We spent April 24, which was my birthday playing disc golf then spent the afternoon fishing, drinking a few beers and eating pizza. Towns and civilization are highlights for us, it’s always nice to eat food that not Ramen, or cereal bars.
The Smoky Mountains
The Appalachian Trail extends about 80 miles into the Smoky Montains, it stretches from Fontana Dam to Davenport Gap. The Smoky’s are full of wildlife and we found out first hand, on the first day in we went up to this out of service fire tower and while walking towards the stairs I heard this loud rattle, I immediately jumped up on the stairs and looked down to see a 4 foot Timber rattle snake. Hook, one of the guys hiking with me loves snakes so I called him down to check it out. Hook picked him up we checked him out for a bit and then let him go free. The second day in the Smokey Mountains was just as eventful. Our group had planned to have a long day and of course nature had a different idea for us. Solsberry Hill, Red and I were about a mile away from the closest shelter when we began to be pelted by hail. The hail wasn’t too bad just about the size of marbles but the rain made it worse. My last ascent into the shelter was epic, I was running to get there and completely busted and laid out all over the trail, with my clothes wet and soiled I immediately went to the shelter and made a fire. It was pretty amazing because I started a fire with a few tiny dry pieces of wood and the rest were saturated with water. The next day we hiked to Clingmans Dome, this is typically a great viewspot where people come from hundreds of miles away, but on this day April the 27 you could only see about 20 feet in front of you be cause of the fog. On the hike towards Clingmans I got a surprise, looking over to my right I saw two bucks in search of food. They were literally 15 feet away from me, it was a sight to see and so amazing that creatures that are normally hunted on private land have free roam in the Smokey’s. Upon arrival to Clingmans dome we hitched a ride into Gatlinburg, TN from a guy who had hiked the AT a few years back. We stayed at the Grand Prix Hotel which cost a whopping price of 32 dollars per room for 4 hikers. We took a zero day in Gatlinburg and hit some of the tourist spots. We hit up the free Moonshine tastings, and Coons place from Dukes of Hazard along with many others. The moonshine distillery had about 20 different flavors, raspberry, bubble gum, apple pie, just to name a few. Gatlinburg is full of surprises, it had a distillery, winery, and brewery. I was also able to catch one of the State/ Ole Miss baseball games while I was there as well. We headed out on April 29 and made it to Icewater Spring, the day was a little bit slower because one of my buddies Solsberry Hill was having shin splint problems. The next day out we took our biggest day which was 21 miles. The weather was nice and there were some cool spots along the way so it wasn’t too bad. We hit Charlies bunion around noon, got some great photos then made the journey to Cosby Knob Shelter. The last three miles were the hardest for me, I started having knee problems but finally night hiked into the shelter. On May 1, I felt a lot better and hiked 4000 feet downhill out of the Smokey’s heading toward Standing Bear Hostel.
Leaving Smokey Mountains
We arrived at Standing Bear Hostel at 4 in the afternoon, we stuck around to eat a few goodies, Pizza and Candy Bars. Solsberry Hill and I hiked a few miles in the dark to meet up with Red, Hook, Nemo and and Strawberry Moonshine. The next two days May 3th and 4th were epic, we hiked 35 miles into Hot Springs. One of the best spots during this excursion to Hot Springs was Max Patch. Max Patch is a giant grassy bald and you can see almost 20 miles in all directions.
We got into Hot Springs late in the afternoon on May 4th. Once we made it into the city we set up our tents on the French Broad, which is the river that runs thru the heart of the city. We spent 2 days in Hot Springs and they were well worth it. We were able to bathe, resupply, and hang out with fellow hikers. Hot Springs was hosting a blue grass festival all weekend which included the Gourds, and Willy Nelsons son. We attended the festival on Friday night and Saturday we listened to it from across the river where we were tenting. We left Sunday morning the sixth of May and went a few miles outside the city to a pond in the mountains.
The only way to describe the next week was “Rain.” we spent the next three days hiking in the rain. It was hard. We would put up all our gear and my pack would often weigh a few pounds extra because of all the rain and dew that had collected on my tent and bag. We finally got to Erwin, TN on May 10th and we were all ready for it. We stayed in town for a night to clean up and dry off. Finally on our second day in Erwin the rain receded and we were able to dry our gear off before we headed back out on the trail. We left Erwin, TN on May 12 and got to Beauty Spot, which is a grassy bald with exquisite views. Once we were on top of the trail we came across a thru hiker who had hiked in 2010, he greeted us with Pabst Blue ribbon, stuffing, and doughnuts. This was amazing and it was my first trail magic to receive on the trail. We met back up with Octo who I hadn’t seen much for a while on the trail. Octo and I met on the first and second day on the trail. We all hiked the next day to Greasy Creek Gap. This day once again was filled with mixed weather of high winds and rain, finally we made it to our campsite at Greasy Creek and we set up shop for the night, we had a huge fire, and just sat around chatting when a new character strolled up, his name was Shakespeare, and he could recite almost any poem that you could think of to request. We spent the next day in the shelter a mile away from where we camped. Hook, Red, Solsberry Hill and I spent the day at Clyde Smith Shelter playing spades and other cards games trying to wait out the rain. It literally poured all day and night. We got up the next morning May 14 and began the hike to Roan mountain. The top of Roan mountain used to house a Hotel in the late 1800’s and it was reached by a train that ran to the top of the mountain. Now there is just a road and a tourist center. The hike up to Roan mountain and over it was best defined by fog. The whole time other than about 30 minutes in the late afternoon we were only able to see about 20 feet in front of us. After leaving the mountain Octo, Solsberry, and I night hiked into Overmountain shelter to meet up with the rest of our group. Overmountain shelter was cool because it was a converted barn.
This morning , May 15 we left the shelter and headed up another mountain with great views. We hiked for 4 miles and realized we could go into Elk Park, TN 7 miles away. We got to Elk Park after fighting thru some rain and made our way into town to grab a burger. On the way we met a sweet lady who owned an upholstery shop. Solsberry mentioned out loud that I could get my backpack fixed here, she heard us and offered to fix my bag free of charge. I accepted her offer and she did a wonderful stitching job on my pack, the top flap on my bag was falling apart. This really shows that there still are good hearted people in the world. I looked in the mirror today and realized that I have nasty and odd facial hair, it just grows in patches all over my face. I want to cut it but the crew thinks its funny so i’m probably gonna keep it. Sorry Mom.
I am going to add photos as soon as I get to a computer that will let me upload them.