Leavin’ Town Blues

It’s 9pm: do you know where AT hikers are? Most at this shelter 4 miles north of Erwin, Tennessee are hunkered down in their sleeping bags either writing in their journals or sleeping already. My dad and I are definitely on the late shift. We’re out by the campfire boiling water for our dehydrated dinners right now. There’s just one other hiker still up with us.

I guess we’re up so “late” because we left Erwin and the comforts of Uncle Johnny’s Nolichucky Hostel and Outfitters around 5:30 this evening. Let’s just say that 5pm is when a lot of hikers end their days, so we’re a little off schedule. We arrived at Uncle Johnny’s last night (the 17th) around 8 pm, after our new longest hike to date – 20.5 miles. We did laundry, showered & hung around the fire with fellow hikers. It’s a very welcoming place. This morning they shuttled us to JD’s, a local diner where we had a huge breakfast of biscuits, gravy, eggs, bacon, hash browns, coffee and oj, all for under $10 for the both of us. Then they shuttled us to lunch – Pizza Plus, an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet and salad bar. In between, we got to shop, go to the P.O. and just relax and repack on the grass at the hostel.

So what I’m getting at, is that it was hard to leave. Other hikers were sharing beers, playing games, checking emails, planning more all-you-can-eat adventures…and there we were, putting our heavy packs (due to the 6-day food resupply) back on our backs and heading uphill. (Towns are always in the valleys.). We’ve been moving along at a good clip for the last couple weeks and so we haven’t had the chance to stay with the same hikers much. We’ll be around the same people for a day or two and then they move ahead or we do. It’s great for meeting a lot of people, but not for making good friends.

A place like Uncle Johnny’s gives us the chance to talk to people other than ourselves and connect a bit with the faces you’ve seen along the way so far. I mean, I love my dad and all, but being together 24/7 is a lot of time together. And with the hours we’ve been putting in, it’s sometimes too late to talk much to others before everyone starts their bedtime routines at shelters or campsites.

But I know we’re not out here for the hostel bunk beds, the 10am beer run shuttles, the stupid amount of bad food we’re eating and the basic comforts of home — we’re here to be in the woods and hike! And though it was sad to turn back and see those happy, relaxed hikers as we were walking out of town, it didn’t take too many miles to feel like we were back in trekking mode. Besides, Damascus, VA is just over a week away!…

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13 Responses to Leavin’ Town Blues

  1. Beth Paulson says:

    Now you’re full of southern vittles (biscuits and gravy for breakfast??) But no doubt you’ll walk it off soon. So glad to hear via your mom that you weren’t in a tornado’s path. What signs of spring are you seeing? What’s blooming down in the towns? Mel, are you taking flower photos? Up here in the San Juans we have no leaves yet, but some brave little crocuses and daffodils are peeking up.

    • Mel says:

      Biscuits, gravy, eggs, asiago sausage, coffee cake, fruit, donuts, french toast, coffee, oj…that’s what we had at the Mountain Harbour hostel in Roan Mountain, TN this morning…mmmm! No tornadoes this far west in NC/TN, but we did have a windy day or two. The trees are finally starting to blossom and get green around here. The magnolia trees are very pretty. Check out my dad’s new wildflower page to see what else is in bloom!

  2. christopher says:

    sounds like you’re hitting your stride.
    very much enjoying your trail tales.
    any scuttle on true “grits” ala “my cousin Vinnie?”
    happy trails…

  3. Perry says:

    Reading that you were hogging down so much food, I wondered how it was to get back on the trail with full bellies?
    But I guess you must be used to the routine by now, that is to walk some, relax some, and wolf down a lot of food, jump up and get back to putting one foot in front of the other, progressing on your adventure.
    Just for giggles I Googled some Appalachian Trail facts that is probably old information to you and Mike.
    But here is a couple, it is said it takes approx.,5 million steps to complete the entire trail.
    The lowest point is 124′ near Trail Side Museum@Bear Mountain NY, the highest is 6,625′ on Clingmans Dome in Tennessee.
    Here is a short prayer for the both of you.”May all your weather be fair,and the rest of your journey be safe and healthy, Amen”

  4. christopher says:

    how’s the hills and dales?
    (how much elevation change do you average per day?)
    all the best and happy, hoppy earth day

    • Mel says:

      Some days are up and down all day, some are majority up, some majority down. One guy we were hiking with the other day had an altimeter on his watch and he said we climbed around 4,500 feet and decended 2,000. It varies a lot depending on where we are. Today we climbed about 2,000. The Smokies were big, as has been the rest of the NC/TN border. What we’re really looking forward to is Virginia, where the ups and downs level out a bit!

  5. Darren says:

    All you can eat Pizza?! Holy Shit!!!!!!!!!

  6. Michael says:

    You want to know what’s better than biscuits and gravy?

    Answer: MORE biscuits and gravy!!!

    • Mike says:

      …and what’s even better than MORE biscuits and gravy is more biscuits and gravy and ham and eggs and sausage and pancakes and melons and orange juice and bananas and rye toast with grape jelly and a mushroom and cheese omelet and french toast with walnuts and honey and ….

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