After watching the sun rise from the firetower, I was the first one packed up and back on the trail. I went a few miles when I finally saw my first bear! It was a cub and the mom was nowhere in sight. It ran a big arc around me and disappeared up over a ridge. I’m guessing in the general direction of it’s mother. Didn’t get a chance to get a picture though. As I rounded the next corner, I came up on the next shelter so I got to share my bear sighting with them. It was a great day too because it was my first long day where I didn’t have any residual tightness in the led ankle I injured earlier.
I had some awesome trail magic where the trail crosses under I-26. Lots of burgers, potato salad, pop, and snacks. It was shortly after that when I saw Yetta for the last time on the trail. She is 73 years old and section hiked this year from Neel’s Gap in Georgia to Erwin with a bad hip. She has done all of the AT except north of Bennington, Vermont, has hiked all of the Pacific Crest Trail, and had hiked the Camino de Santiago in Europe three times. I want to be like Yetta when I grow up. Everyone I talked to on the trail pretty much agrees she is awesome. I was lucky to get the chance to run into her as many times as I did along the trail.
There were definitely some incredible balds along the way. My favorite of that stretch was Big Bald. There was also an incredible bit of trail between Spivey Gap and No Business Knob Shelter. After a short, but tough climb up the gap. The trail had an easy grade along the edge of a steep gorge. It was a beautiful, mature forest with a mix of evergreen and deciduous trees. The magnolias trees were in bloom adding a wonderful smell that mixed well with the evergreens. I hiked that section until dark when I arrived at No Business Knob Shelter. Definitely one of my favorite sections of trail so far.
Once I made it in to Erwin the next day, I decided I would do a resupply and head back out onto the trail that afternoon. I spent a few hours at Uncle Johnny’s Hostel to get a shower and a ride to the pizza buffet in town. I think I may be mastering the art of stuffing myself as full as I can without making myself sick. I grabbed some food from the IGA while there too. (The IGA Parmesan instant pasta has spinach noodles in it. Score!)
Shortly after that, I headed back into the mountains on the trail. I stopped to rinse out my hiking clothes in a rushing creek. I’ve discovered I can go a lot longer without my clothes smelling too awful by just doing a quick rinse with just a tiny bit of Dr Bronner’s soap.
I had the first shelter out of town to myself that night, so I swept it out really well since I didn’t want to go to bed yet. Hope the next hikers to come through appreciated it.
I tented with a few hikers the next night and got rained on. There was enough of a break in the rain that I got to break camp without my gear getting too wet. Then, it really started to rain. My shoes were swamped within minutes. I took a break at the next shelter for breakfast, and then soldiered on to summit one of the tougher mountains on the trail. Roan Mountain was my last 6000 footer until
Mount Washington in New Hampshire. It was a lot of fun to be honest.
At the top I got some awesome Cinco de Mayo trail magic. Lots of candy, a corona, and a shot of Sex on the Beach. It was the perfect way to finish my last 6000 footer for awhile. The trail angels then invited us back to their car where they fed us everything they had left from their section hike. As I was leaving, they mentioned they were from Indiana. I then mentioned I was from a small town outside of Indy called New Palestine. Two of the trail angels were a mother and daughter and the mom works at the CVS in the small town where I am from! Craziness! To top it off, she had somehow gotten into a conversation with my mom a week or two earlier about her son being out on the trail. HOW CRAZY IS THAT! Never met her before in my life as far as I know. Simply awesome!
From there I headed up into the Roan Highlands on a trail magic high. Even though it was cloudy, the views were still incredible. I e see up stopping for the night where there was a raging Cinco de Mayo party with over 40 people. It was a bit overwhelming, but I did enjoy a free beer out of the deal.
Hiking into the most beautiful portion of the Roan Highlands the next morning was simply incredible. All the rain and fog from the night before cleared and I had the most spectacular views from the top of the treeless ridge. It was only a few miles but I spent hours there. It looked similar to what I think Ireland would look like except higher and there were forest covered mountains all around you. I also texted pictures to a bunch of because I finally had service and it was simply too great not to share. There were definitely some tough climbs through there, but it was all worth it.
The trail back down from the highlands was tough and rocky, but I was rewarded at the next gap with an all you can eat lunch buffet. After that, I headed back onto the trail so I could get to Overmountain Shelter where I heard there was a waterfall you could take a shower in. I took a quick detour on the trail the afternoon to Jones’ Falls which was great. When I got to the shelter it was a bit crowded so I opted to camp at a nearby campsite instead. I still got an ice cold shower in the waterfall though because how many people can say they’ve taken a shower in a waterfall? Not many, but now I can. (Really it was more of a rinse.)
The next day I stopped by the shelter and one of the guys mentioned that a ton of people were planning on getting to Kincora Hostel that night. I really wanted to stay there so I made a goal to get ahead of a lot of people so I could get a space. Ended up being pointless though because most people stopped short that night. Lesson learned. Kincora hostel was great though. Bob Peoples runs the hostel and it is attached to his house. It’s only a $5 suggested donation to stay the night. This includes a bed, some food, laundry, and shower. That’s pretty amazing. Bob also puts together a crew each year to do some of the toughest trail maintenance around. He is a quiet thoughtful man so it’s funny that there are tons of Chuck Norris-like quotes about him. Basically Bob Peoples is a pretty epic guy.
I stayed there for a zero day, and really enjoyed just visiting with other hikers. I got the chance to talk to Gruffallo and Short-Step. They area couple from Australia who are hiking the AT for their honeymoon. Short-Step broke her wrist in the Smokies so they had to take 3 1/2 weeks off trail. They’ve stuck with it though and seem to be really having a great time. Also had a little bit of a jam session with a couple hikers. Of course, it ended with Wagon Wheel.