Day 34: Ash Gap

Day 34. Today ended up being another unexpected 20 miler. Originally, I only planned to do 11 and bunk up at a hostel for the night a half-mile off trail that has my resupply box. But, when I got there, it just didn’t feel right.

For one, it was only 1pm and I felt silly stopping so early on a beautiful blue sky day like today. It is supposedly going to rain tomorrow, so why not get in the miles now while I can enjoy them?

The 2nd reason, is that the hostel did not feel as welcoming as I had initially read. In planning, I only heard amazing things about the Greasy Creek Friendly Hostel that is a short hike off the AT. So, I sent my resupply box there with intentions to spend the night in their care. The owner, Cee Cee is supposedly very sweet and the atmosphere is that of a warm family all hanging out together.

But, when I got there, none of that was found. Even the walk in, through a maze of run-down homes and crumbling barns, felt disheartening. When I arrived, the place was mostly empty and covered in dust. There was one random guy who answered when I knocked on the locked door, who he let me in with barely a word.

He told me to wash my hands and then put the paper towel I dry with in the stove. Then he said Cee Cee was gone and should be back by dinner. He was nice, but didn’t say much more and didn’t exactly make it feel like the “friendly” hostel as advertised. I found my box among others stacked in the living room, then sat at the small dusty table to organize my food and decide what to do.

After about 30 minutes, it was clear that random guy wasn’t going to be much help, and staying was going to be awkward. There was a resupply of food and a rack of loaner clothes covered in dust and grime from n the corner. The whole thing just felt like a scene out of a Steven King novel. Any minute now, Kathy Bates was going to jump out with an axe or the walls would start to bleed.

I am sure the place and it’s owner are better than my experience, but I was happy to move on. I wish them and any future hikers that stay there only the best.

So, with hours of daylight still left, I decided to just walk as far as I could. There is a shelter at the top of Roan Mountain (the highest shelter on the trail at 6250 ft), which felt like a good goal to shoot for. It would make today close to 22 miles, but I knew there were a few campsites along the way I could stop at if needed.

It was a great afternoon hike, which was all alone and mostly uphill, but the skies were clear and the views were majestic. This is the first mountain over 6,000 feet since the Smokies, and climbing back up this high did bring a bit of cold and wind, but nothing unmanageable.

Around 7pm, and only 1.8 miles to the top, I prepared to walk through the last campsite area before the final climb to the top. But as I passed, I heard a familiar voice yell my name, “Sharkbait!” It was Chickapea, yelling from inside his camouflage tent just feet away. I completely missed it when walking by, so I stopped over to say hello. In chatting with him, I quickly decided this was as good a place to camp as any. I already put in over 20 miles anyways, and if the shelter at the top was full, I’d be stuck outside on a very windy hilltop. Its windy here too, but I set up the hammock in a place that I thought had a slight wind break. Turns out it is very slight. My tarp is bellowing in the wind as I type this.

Over dinner, we met some section hikers also camping here, and made a huge fire that we all enjoyed under the stars. I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow, but will probably go 18 miles or so either way. I’m less than 100 miles from Virginia right now, and think I can probably get there in 5 days if the weather stays this nice. Knock on wood.

Hello Neiman (Sharkbait!)

  • Start to Mile: 357.6
  • Start Time: 08:45
  • End Mile: 376.4
  • End Time: 19:05
  • Miles Hiked: 18.8 (+1.2 extra)
  • Miles to Go: 1814.5
  • Lodging: Ash Gap campsite