Day 35: Mountain Harbour Hostel

Day 35. What a difference a day makes. The hostel I almost stayed at yesterday gave me the creeps from the second I started down the path. But the hostel that I am staying at today, was immaculate from first glance.

It was a long walk to get here, 18 miles or so, but it was a beautiful one. Not at first though. I’ll admit, setting up camp at 5,300 ft elevation with 80% chance of rain overnight was not the brightest idea, and I paid the cost this morning. Rain and cold wind pelted my tarp all night, and any hopes of an early start to the day were quickly dashed when I felt the chill and camp air upon waking.

My original thought was to wait it out, then pack up when it is dry, but the wind laughed at that idea. Sure, the rain stopped around 7am … but the bellowing wind knocked moisture off the trees down on to me with every gust. I finally gave in at 10am and packed up camp. I left my tarp for the last and sat under it to heat up coffee before finally packing the wet tarp and heading out. This was not my normal morning routine, but rain will do that to a man.

Speaking of … routine is a backpacker’s best friend, because it ensures you can easily account for everything. Every item has a stuff sack and every stuff sack has a place in the pack, helping protect from leaving something behind. I am much faster at breaking down camp each morning now because I repeat a daily routine to do so:

  1. Change clothes, put sleeping clothes in yellow stuff sack
  2. Stuff quilts in large blue stuff sack
  3. Stuff accessories into one of 3 small accessory stuff sacks
  4. Pack hammock into small blue stuff sack
  5. Pack tarp in black stuff sack

Once those are all packed up, it’s just a matter of packing them in order:

  1. Food bag on bottom
  2. Quilt bag on top of food
  3. Hammock and sleeping pad in middle
  4. Tarp and clothing bag on top

Everything else is in one of those 3 small “accessory” bags that go in the top (brain) section of the pack: Red bag for electronics and sleep stuff, orange bag for med/toiletry stuff, green bag for head gear stuff (winter hat, bandana, cap, sunglasses, bug net, etc). Since everything goes in the same place every day, I shouldn’t ever leave anything behind. And since everything immediately goes in the stuff sack when done being used, there are only a few things to keep track of. There is still the occasional lost spoon, but nobody’s perfect. 🙂

Anyway, back to today’s hike. I finally got moving around 11am and the sun came out shortly after. It was still cold and windy most of the day, but there were moments I almost considered taking my raincoat off. Around 3pm, Chickapea and I made it to an old barn that was converted to a shelter. It probably holds 20+ people … but had that many in it already. A high school spring break trip was making themselves at home. Chickapea’s feet were hurting so he decided to stop there for the night, but I was feeling good and wanting to take advantage of the 5 hours of daylight remaining. I stayed long enough to dry out my tarp in the sun, then headed down the trail.

Side note, at the top of Roan Mountain were the remnants of an old 19th century resort called Cloudland Hotel. It is just a grassy meadow now but used to be quite the destination spot. If it’s not too small, the pic below tells some of the story.

The next 7.5 miles were beautiful over some incredible open spaces. Little Hump and Hump Mountain were mainly treeless and VERY windy, as I tried to keep from being knocked over by wind gusts that had to be at least 30 mph. But the views made it worth it as I took in the surrounding countryside.

The final couple miles were straight down to a highway crossing, where I had to choose my fate … camp by the road and deal with loud cars all night, or walk 0.3 miles to the Mountain Harbour Hostel. After checking my Guthooks guide, the comments were overly positive about this place and their infamous breakfast. I couldn’t resist, and headed over.

And boy am I glad I did. This is hands down the nicest, cleanest, and fanciest hostel I’ve stayed in. It’s actually a full B&B, plus a hiker hostel for $25 a bed above the converted barn. This is an old barn that was completely remodeled 2 years ago to hold 6 hikers in luxurious accommodation. There is also a general store, food truck, laundry, hot beverage station, vending machines, indoor and outdoor dining area and more. Absolutely amazing place that every hiker should experience. Also, they have a goat running around outside, which is pretty neat.

I did some laundry, chatted with the 2 other hikers here (Legs and Jackalope) that I’ve seen on and off the last few weeks, and crashed in a very large and very comfortable bed. It would be very easy to stay here multiple nights … but no, the trail awaits me tomorrow!

Hello Neiman (Sharkbait!)

  • Start Mile: 376.4
  • Start Time: 10:50
  • End Mile: 394.8
  • End Time: 20:05
  • Miles Hiked: 18.4
  • Miles to Go: 1796.1
  • Lodging: Mountain Harbour B&B / Hiker Hostel