Day 26. Well, I lied. I didn’t mean to hike this far but damnit if that KT Tape isn’t miraculous. I did a double round of stretches this morning and then Fun Facts worked her expertise on the tape … and wow. It may be a false sense of security, but I hiked 17+ miles today to Hot Springs and all felt great. It’s 9pm now and I barely feel any pain, simply amazing. Buy stock in whatever company makes this tape (3M?), it’s going to change the world!
It was a cold night, so it was a late morning. When I finally packed up and left at 10:15, Nubs and Culligan we’re still in bed. Because of the fear of rain, I slept in the shelter again, but it ended up being a dry night. Damn you mountain weather! I slept well enough, but I’m eager for the comfort of my hammock again. Fortunately, we are stealth camping tonight by the river in Hot Springs, so I’m in for a great night’s sleep. I just miss my hammock, what can I say.
I took it slow this morning, to keep any unnecessary pressure off the shins, so it wasn’t long before the guys and Fun Facts caught up. Around noon at Walnut Mountain they caught me and we agreed on the plan … get to Hot Springs if possible and stealth camp tonight in town, then Zero tomorrow. That will give us a full day to do laundry, resupply, enjoy the mineral spa hot tubs, and revitalize the body.
I hiked mostly alone today, so I banged out a podcast I’ve been meaning to listen to. For anyone else waiting to check out “Dirty John”, my recommendation is to skip it. The 8 episode series could be done in 2 but they dragged it out with overly telling foreshadowing and too many unnecessary filler episodes. Great if you have 4 hours of hiking to kill, but bad if you have anything else going on in your life. It’s no Serial…
At 14 miles, we arrived at the final shelter before town and were greeted by 3 section hikers working out their day’s plan. It turns out their leader is a young lady named Puddin’ who hiked the AT in 2015 and the PCT this past year. She now is a trail guide taking others on short hikes in the area. She was very knowledgeable and fun to chat with during our brief rest. Interestingly, she did both hikes southbound, going against the norm, because she likes the solitude. We chatted for a bit before moving on, comparing itineraries, gear and adventures, then headed down the final 3 miles to Hot Springs. Interesting tidbit, she said the PCT was significantly easier than the AT. Maybe someday I’ll consider that adventure too … ?
Hot Springs is the first town that the AT actually cuts straight through. The trail literally goes down Main Street, with AT emblems engraved into the sidewalk (see photo). It’s a small town but very hiker-friendly. I picked up the resupply box Dr. D sent last week to the Laughing Heart Hostel, then quickly made my way to the 1 tavern in town for dinner.
Side note, Leap Frog is here! We finally caught up with her, but it sounds like she is headed out tomorrow. Oh well, good to see she made it through there the snowy Smokies unscathed.
At the tavern (1 of only 2 places in town that sells alcohol), we met up with all the other hikers that arrived in town today town (not shocked to see this be our communal hangout spot): Zoltan, Trenchfoot, Caveman, Babyface, Chickapea, and us four enjoyed dinner together. We hiked with these guys for the first couple days in the Smokies so it was a fun mini reunion over drinks. The hiker hunger must be starting, after a full day of food I downed 12 wings, a burger and fries, and my fair share of beer.
After dinner, the group made its collective way to the “stealth” campsite we are all staying at. Not very stealth with a dozen tents/hammocks set up, but apparently it’s a common campsite and completely legal in this town. As we starting setting up, we heard a familiar voice. Culligan’s original hiking partner Ian (now “Cinco”) was here too! I hiked with Ian at the beginning as well for a few days on and off, so it was a nice to catch up. We last saw him coming in to Franklin as we were leaving, but he’s been busy. He hiked straight through the winter storm also so is a day ahead of us and heading out in the morning with some new friends.
We were all exhausted by this time (waaaaay past my hiker bedtime of 8pm), so all retreated to bed. Tomorrow will be a heavenly day off and then the hike goes on.
Side note, Passover starts Friday and I’m thinking it would be nice to find a family to possibly celebrate with. I am going to the town Library tomorrow and may look up if there is any synagogue near Erwin, which should be roughly where I am by Saturday. It’s a long shot, but if there is, they may know families in the area willing to host a wandering nomad for Seder dinner. If anyone reading this knows any welcoming Jewish families in the vicinity, feel free to send them my way!
Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)!
- Start Mile: 256.6
- Start Time: 10:15
- End Mile: 274.9
- End Time: 18:15
- Miles Hiked: 18.3
- Miles to Go: 1916.0
- Lodging: Stealth Camp on French Broad River in Hot Springs, NC