Day 10: Rock Gap / Franklin

Day 10. Rain is a reeeeally great motivator. With impending showers today and tomorrow, we woke up early to get on the trail by 8am and see how far we could go before the rain hits. My hammock setup is pretty good in the rain, but the others were not as confident, so we looked at the upcoming shelter options. There were shelters after 7.5 and 16 miles, so we decided to press for the latter, but also willing to settle for a short day if needed.

At first the rain was supposed to hit at 9am, then 1pm, then 4pm … but it never opened up and we stayed dry all day. A very light sprinkle just before lunch, but that was it. So we just kept hiking and hiking and hiking. Before long, we made it all the way to Rock Gap just shy of 20 miles away! I did not expect to record a 20 mile day so soon, but the body was feeling great, and my feet stayed the path. This is officially the longest day of hiking I’ve ever done … by far.

Getting to Rock Gap meant we could shuttle in to a Hostel in Franklin for the night. After strategizing (and realizing how beat up we all were), we decided the push was worth a reward. Tomorrow we will take a full day off, called a Zero Day, and let our bodies recover while exploring this tiny trail town. Since it is supposed to rain all day, it’s definitely a win win. We are staying dry at the Gooder Grove AT Hostel … more on that later.

The hike today was pretty easy, all things considered. Standing Indian proved to be a gentle giant, as the high elevation was balanced with a long trail of switchbacks. It was clear early in the day, so we had great line of sight to Clingman’s Dome. This is the highest peak on the AT, nestled in the forthcoming Great Smokey Mountains. It is still 100 miles away but stands like a monolith above everything else. That will be one helluva climb. You can see it in the distance in the photo below. It looks a bit like El Capitan in Yosemite or Chief Mountain in Glacier.

Side note, as I climbed up Standing Indian, I found myself praising the good people of North Carolina for knowing how to design a trail with switchbacks … something Georgia is apparently still waiting to discover.

The real beast today was Albert Mountain. After hiking 14 miles already, we rose 600 ft steadily over the next two miles. Then, we faced an insane hiking challenge to get the top. No, not hiking. Rock climbing. We climbed 400 ft through a cloud of fog on an incline so steep, I had to use all 4 appendages to scale it. The view at the top was supposed to be great but the fog rendered it nonexistent. Instead, we celebrated a different landmark … 100 miles complete! Someone laid out sticks to signify the achievement and milestone on the way back down, so we stopped for photos (above).

Our lodging tonight is the Gooder Grove AT Hostel. The proprietor is a very chill guy aptly named Zen, and the accommodations are nice. He converted his home to this hostel 3 years ago and welcomes up to 20 people per night. The main level bedrooms are converted to private rooms and the basement is a bunk house at $20 a bed. We see a couple familiar faces here, though it is mostly hikers we’ve yet to meet.

Two hikers are staying here for free, doing a “work for stay” contract with Zen while they heal from trail injuries. Work for stay is common on the AT and can alleviate some of the costs if you are willing to spend your day off running errands and cleaning up after other messy guests. I appreciate that it’s an option, but would much rather relax and recuperate. They also do our laundry as well, so after showering we are all cozied up in hostel loaner clothes (t-shirts and scrub/flannel pants).

We actually will stay here 2 nights and then hit the trail Monday morning. That will give us a full day of rest, and a chance for Fun Facts to pick up her resupply box at the post office. There are a few outfitters in town to check out also, though Steve is very eager to visit Walmart. He has this crazy idea of buying us all onesies to wear around town tomorrow … and you know what? It would not be the craziest thing I did this week. Hello Neiman!

  • Start Mile: 85.6
  • Start Time: 08:00
  • End Mile: 105.5
  • End Time: 18:05
  • Miles Hiked: 19.9
  • Miles to Go: 2085.4
  • Lodging: Franklin / Gooder Grove Hostel

17 thoughts on “Day 10: Rock Gap / Franklin

  1. Congrats on your first 100. That’s really impressive. While your hiking the AT next week I am going to the dentist, the doctor, installing a $1127 dishwasher and having lunch with your dad. Happy trails

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Don’t sing this in a falsetto voice (people will stare): “It only hurts for a little while, that’s what they say, that’s what they say…” Rain, cold, fog, rocks, long-long days on the trail. “Bring them on – overwhelming challenges for the faint at heart, but not for a mountain man”, so says our son
    xxx
    mom & dad

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yea, keep on keepin’ on, Mike! That’s good advice. Congrats on the longest mileage day, and the 100 mi down! You will find yourself using all four appendages again, however… but you’ll get used to it! Going up, and down. That’s why they put wrist straps on hiking poles… for going up (unless you can see where they’ll land if you throw them up ahead). You can usually see where they’ll land, if throwing them down -but no guarantees. I’ve never climbed Clingman’s Dome, but I’ve heard stories. Better you, than me… I’ll leave it at that. May you have sunny, blue skies and 45 degree highs over the next few days! Enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Day 5:
    Today Critter and I were joined in our journey with fellow hiker Little G$. We started the afternoon with a hike down ~11 vertical feet over 14 steps. It was there we found the basement. Once at the bottom, it was another 10 steps to our destination.

    Critter and I had been been there before, but this was the first time Little G$ had seen this beautiful view. Toys as far as the eye could see; cars of all sizes, books, balls and blocks. We spent over an hour taking in all the basement had to offer.

    The return hike back up the 11 vertical feet was rough. Many tears were shed when I informed my fellow hikers we had to return. However, there was some comfort in knowing that someday we would return.

    Start Location: Top of steps
    Start Time: 4:18
    Steps: 50
    End Time: 5:22
    End Location: Top of steps
    Total Steps: 380

    After

    Like

  5. I find myself thinking about you a lot as I wake up and wondering how the day is looking for you. I appreciate being able to read later and find out. I hope the zero day was a good one and you’re feeling rested. Congrats on 100 miles!

    Liked by 2 people

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