Hot Springs, NC to Erwin, TN

Fuego (Jimi):

Day 34 4/24/15

(Mile 274.4 – 279.6).  We woke up in Hotel California and knew we had to get back on the trail before it started sucking us back in.  Some of the other hikers have been here for almost a week!

We got some subs to eat and then exchanged Fancy Pants’ backpack at the outfitter. Her pack was too short on the torso and she needed to get the next size up. Would’ve been bad if she had to deal with the small pack for awhile down the trail. We purchased it and mailed the smaller pack back to REI. We spent more, but it was worth it. We hung out at the ministry for a bit and pressed on towards the trail.   

     We hiked out 5.2 miles from the southern end of town so technically we did less than 5.2. Either way we were proud that we got out of Hot Springs! We crossed a huge river and walked along the side of it for awhile. Soon after, we went straight up a mountain. It was tough, but we saw some gorgeous views of the mountains and the town of Hot Springs. 4 miles in, we ran into Bearded Crab, Downhill, Good Foot, and Gentleman. They were standing around talking loud and laughing without their packs on. I (Fuego) asked, “What are you doing?” Bearded Crab said, “Oh we just drank a box of wine.” I shook my head and laughed. We ended up just hiking another mile up the trail to the campsite that had a pond held up by a dam. I walked across the dam to get to the campsite faster, but it scared the crap out of me once I got halfway across. One side was about a 30 foot drop. I yelled out to Fancy Pants, “Don’t go this way!” Of course she already figured that out before I said that. 

   
   Some went swimming in the pond, I was more excited about setting up our new tent! The tent is way more spacious and weighs the same as our smaller tent. Going to take practice to setting it up faster, but we love it! We ended up making a fire and about a dozen hikers came and sat around it. It was a fun relaxing night.

Day 35 4/25/15

(Mile 279.6 – 289.2).  We weren’t very motivated to hike today- it’s always harder after you have recently left a town. Here are some things few things we’ve noticed once you leave town that makes it harder to start back on the trail:

• Your pack is at least 10 pounds heavier from resupply

• Back on the power bars and dehydrated food diet

• No one there to cook your food

• You always have to start the trail uphill from town

• No bed with cotton sheets

• No shower

• Having fun the night before always bites you back even if you behaved

• No bathrooms (especially in the rain)

The first 3 miles took 3 hours. There was a lot of uphill, but it got faster after lunch. Once we got to Allen Gap, we saw Bearded Crab sitting on a log drinking a beer. He walked over to a nearby store called Mom’s Store. This place looked like it had been shut down for years or maybe even decades.  

  

  

  

 We walked in and met Pam, sweet lady with a thick southern accent. She sold stuff that only hikers would buy and there wasn’t many options. Fuego had a couple of Hot Pockets and Fancy Pants had some ice cream. The rest of the place was loaded with crap to where you couldn’t walk in certain areas. Boombox came by and started chatting with Pam. He found out her husband Duane has a bar down the street and would give us a ride. I was more focused on getting back on the trail, but Fancy Pants at this time was done with the trail so off to the bar we went. Duane picked us up and we hopped into his truck to his bar – The Mountaintop Tavern. Just like the Mom’s store, this place also looked like it hasn’t been open in awhile, haha! As he was unlocking the door he said, “I bet yall ain’t ever seen a bar like this unless your old man took you when you were a young feller!” This place was old and had nothing from the 21st century. It was a Saturday and we were the only ones there that night. I don’t even know if he was running it legally to tell the truth. Duane sure had a lot of stories and we played random music all night. I remember Pam mentioning about a thru hiker she met and asked him, “So aren’t you finding any girls on the trail?” He said, “Ma’m, I tell you, all the trail girls on the trail are either vegetarians, too high class for me, or they are lesbians!” We played pool, did more story telling, and sang out loud to random music. We ended up closing the bar down and Duane gave us a ride back to the gap. This was an interesting experience, people like this are disappearing it seems. If you gave them a smart phone they wouldn’t know what to do with it, because they simply just don’t want anything to do with it.  

         Day 36 4/26/15

Mile 389.2-300.8 (hiked 11.6 miles). In the middle of the night around 2:40am, Fancy Pants woke up soaking wet. Her sleeping bag, sleeping pad, clothes and other items got totally soaked. She had no clue where it came from at first and accused Fuego of peeing all over the place, haha! Turns out it was the nozzle end of one of the water bladders that leaked out. It was an awful experience, lots of sleep was lost.  

Once we got out of the tent in the late morning, we saw a perfect example of hiker trash. We were literally camped on the side of the road and I saw Downhill, Boombox, and Bearded Crab spooning each other under one tarp near a ditch. We were laughing hysterically. 

Once Christy we got our stuff packed, we noticed Bearded Crab and Boombox wanted to find a town. I thought they were kidding, but once I saw their food supply I realized they had no choice. We continued on and they ended up hitching. Downhill also continued the trail, but took him awhile to start hiking. As we started the ascent out of the gap, we ran into Goodfoot and Gentleman. They saw our note we left them about the bar and said it sounded like they were going to steal our kidneys, LOL! We saw a Hostel ad that mentioned warm food and it took a lot of effort to not stop by there. We pressed on without it, but it took a minute to get over it. The miles were slow, but we picked up the pace once we got some lunch in. It was cloudy and foggy all day so we skipped going to the tower.

The hiking weather got pretty cold and it rained the last few hours. Passed the 300 mile mark! We made it to Jerry’s Cabin Shelter around 7 which is pretty late. The shelter was full of older men who probably thought we were crazy, because we were wearing t-shirts and soaked in 40 degree weather. We had to set up our wet tent in cold, wet weather. I could barely move my fingers around they were so numb. I was in silence mode, because mentally inside I was short fused and ready to blow. Once I got the wet clothes off and warm ones on, I was back to a happy camper. No one hung out with each other on this evening, everyone was tired and miserable from the weather.  

   Day 37 4/27/15

Mile 300.8 – 316.0

Woke up and felt like I didn’t get any sleep at all. Our tent was slanted so we slid around all night. Also Christy’s sleeping gear was still soaked so we had to share my stuff during a pretty cold night. It took us awhile to wake up and pack our stuff out. The sun eventually came out and we were able to dry out the wet gear for a little bit.

We hiked 15.2 miles to Hogback Ridge Shelter. The hike before lunch was pretty smooth. A few ascents but mostly just rolling along. Met a big group of section hikers at lunch plus the couple from DC. The hike out wasn’t too bad, but once we started the climb, we slowed down a lot. 

Fancy Pants: Pretty much the only day where my (Fancy Pants) calves didn’t feel like death was the day out of Gatlinburg. Where’s my trail legs?!

Day 38 4/28/15

Mile 316.0-329.6

Our hike went well today. Quite a bit on the uphill side, but it wasn’t as bad as it seemed in the guide book. We took an hour and a half for lunch by a spring. Talked to Kelly about getting picked up for Katie’s graduation. Fuego got a text from Breaded Crab that he, Boombox, Tarzan, and Freestyle yellow blazed from Allen Gap to Erwin, TN. That is about 50 miles skipped. Sounds like the beginning of the end for them. 

   
               There were a lot of pretty sites on the trail and the weather was great! Making it up Big Bald Mountain was the highlight of the day. It was very clear outside and you could see continuous mountain ridges in the distance. I could even see the Smoky Mountains from about 100 miles away. Still being able to see the Smokies was incredible. Hiking down the mountain you could see the trail from almost a mile away. It reminded me of the Grand Canyon were you can always see the trail from a long distance. We also met a family hiking together. It was the parents and 5 kids, although they have 10 kids total. We talked to the youngest two at the next shelter- very energetic and intelligent kids. Youngest was 7 or 8. Camped at Whistling Gap with a guy named Oliver. He and China Rock talking made me into wanting to get to Erwin tomorrow too. Pudding for dessert was fantastic!

Day 39 4/29/15

Mile 329.6 – 342.9

I originally wanted to camp near Erwin and go into town early the next day, but Christy and other hikers convinced me to walk into town today. I was ready for a shower and a fresh cooked dinner anyways. Seeing the town of Erwin and the Nolichucky River from the top of a mountain was an incredible view and very welcoming. 

   
             The hike looked pretty difficult in the guide book, but it was actually pretty easy. It looked like we were about to go up huge mountains, but ended up going around the sides of them. All the cabins and hostels were booked so we got a room in town. We had to walk 2 miles into town, because we had no luck on hitching a ride. Only a handful of cars passed us the whole time we walked. We got the hotel and got organized and clean. We decided to call a shuttle since we had no energy left to walk around. We got laundry done, did our resupply and ate dinner. After we got back to the hotel we decided to take it easy and update the blog.  

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