Appalachian Trail - Hot Springs to Roan Mountain
Day 34 - Hot Springs to Pump Gap.
3.3 miles. 12,208 steps. 102 flights of stairs climbed. 2,281 calories burned.
Woke up early needing the loo, so got up early again despite being in town and having a nero planned. We made the most of the kitchen and cooked mushrooms to have on our toasted bagels. Delicious!
Spent the rest of the morning showering, resupplying in town and organising our meals for the next few days into Ziploc bags. If we don't do this, all our packet food ends up in a jumbled mess in the bear bag and it's a nightmare to find anything. We also had a shakedown of our packs to throw out any unnecessary weight. I got rid of a lot of rubbish from the first aid kit, organised the plasters and medications so I could dump the packaging, cut our huge bar of soap in half and threw away the cover for my pillow.
After lunch we started hiking out of town. We had aimed to get further, but we got caught in a huge storm and everything got drenched. It was the fastest we had ever put up our tent. We literally threw everything into it as soon as it was up and jumped in. We didn't have time to reach the water source we'd been aiming for, but we used our cooking pot to collect 4 litres of rain water, which we filtered and cooked with.
Best part of the day - wandering around Hot Springs. It's a very cute town with a river passing through and a great outfitters!
Worst part - having to climb a steep mountain out of town with a heavy bag after resupplying.
Day 35 - Pump Gap to Little Paint Creek Trail
10 miles. 34,766 steps. 331 flights of stairs climbed. 3,908 calories burned.
Collected 4 litres of rainwater in our Sea to Summit cooking pot overnight, which we filtered and took with us. The rain continued on and off all day.
Chris and I hiked alone all day, but saw Nick a couple of times and Rockin Ronnie. Nick is a really sweet guy who we have met a few times. Rockin Ronnie is not sweet. He's a middle-aged 'rockstar' who has been known to make girls feel uncomfortable along the trail by being sexually inappropriate and saying some pretty awful things. He has been following the 'bubble' and playing his songs at open mic nights in the hiker towns to promote his album. Unfortunately we seem to still be in the bubble, however hard we try to escape it.
We hiked slowly today due to achy knees and low energy. Found some trail magic that cheered us up; a box of coke cans on the bonnet of someone's car with a note for hikers to help themselves. The hike was similar to usual with the same forests and brown trees, until we can to an old tobacco farm. It had been left to turn wild again over the years and is now a grassy meadow with an information board.
Stealth camped in the evening again. We had been hiding in the tent for a while to keep dry and suddenly heard lots of squirrels calling to each other in a high-pitched warning tone. We quietly peered out of the tent to try and spot what had upset them, but couldn't see anything.
Best part of the day - the wildlife. Saw lots of cool birds. My favourite were the bright yellow ones. We also saw a black millipede with bright yellow legs. He was pretty cool!
Worst part - being damp all day. Putting damp clothes on in the morning is gross, especially when they stay damp all day.
Day 36 - Deep Gap to blue blazed spring at mile 297.6
10.4 miles. 26,949 steps. 325 flights of stairs climbed. 3,302 calories burned.
Awoke early to the sound of birdsong. I spent 10 minutes watching baby chipmunks running along a log whilst Chris got dressed and sorted out breakfast. It was really foggy and damp again but cleared within an hour of walking.
Tough hiking day. We managed to get to Little Laurel Shelter for lunch before it started really raining again. Ate lunch with Mountain Goat and his mum, and a guy called Red Panda.
We aimed to hike over Big Firescald Knob, but the weather was terrible so we stopped early. Big Firescald Knob is a ridge with sheer drops to each side and involves a lot of scrambling. It has a bad weather bypass and a sign warning hikers not to attempt it if they are even slightly concerned about the weather. We decided to be sensible and take this warning, however we didn't want to skip miles so set up camp at the bypass and waited.
Best part of the day - finishing early and chilling in the tent. The rain had been bringing us down.
Worst part - walking in the rain and feeling cold and wet throughout the day.
Day 37 - Mile 297.6 to Snake Den Ridge Crest.
8.7 miles. 31,772 steps. 184 flights of stairs climbed. 3,851 calories burned.
Woke up to more rain, so we stayed in bed late until it cleared a bit. Eventually we gave up and put the tent down while it was still wet.
The first half of the day was really difficult and foggy. We climbed up over Big Firescald Knob in the fog. Initially it was OK, but with no visibility. However the terrain became rapidly more challenging with alot of scrambling over huge boulders. There were sheer drops to each side and the rocks were extremely slippery. My boots had no traction and neither did my poles. I started sliding towards the edge of the ridge, threw my body forwards to try and stop myself going off the edge, but my backpack swung sideways and I started to slide. Luckily Chris grabbed my backpack and stopped the momentum so I just ended up landing on my knees rather than falling to my death off the side. It was all very dramatic, but the lack of visibility over the edge somehow stopped me from feeling like I'd just dodged death. The rest of the way down was spent on my bum.
We got to the shelter for lunch and the sun finally came out. We were greeted by an amazingly cute stray cat called Jerry, who was obviously starving and looked quite skinny. He was really friendly and begging for food, so we gave him our tuna scraps. The sun finally came out, so we decided to stop early, set up camp and dry everything out.
Best part of the day - we had some pretty cool scenery today including Big Firescald Knob, meadows and forests.
Worst part - waking up to more rain and having to pack up a wet tent again.
Day 38 - Snakeden Ridgecrest to Low Gap Campsite.
18.6 miles. 51,355 steps. 472 flights of stairs climbed. 5,158 calories burned.
As we were getting up we heard a "Hey y'all!" This had been our greeting with Sunshine and Forgiven, and we instantly recognised their voices. They had hiked since 4am and saw our tent. We hiked with them for a few miles, but then lost them again. I think they got tired out from their early start. We hiked past Fuego & Squeak, Dragon & Annie and Yelp's camp. They made a slightly snide comment about overtaking us, so Chris quoted one of Fuego's previous comments of "smiles not miles", and we continued on.
It was a really tough day and our longest yet. We climbed 4,500ft and alot of the path was really muddy. We were running out of energy, but were lucky to make it to some trail magic at one of the road crossings. There were two groups of people who were about to pack up, but they kindly gave us loads of the leftovers. We came away with ramen, turkey, cheese, a cookie cake, chocolates, cinnamon bagels with peanut butter and some water. It gave us the energy we needed to get to camp.
Everyone we had passed this morning had overtaken us in the day and happened to be where we had aimed to camp. We set up camp with them and socialised for a bit before going to bed. Mountain Goat and his mum Sheila were also at the campsite. They have an Instagram account, which can be found here if anyone wants to follow their journey! We've met them a few times now and like chatting to them.
Best part of the day - we passed through some beautiful meadows. The meadow just past Sam's Gap had epic views over the surrounding mountains.
Worst part - The last 5 miles were really challenging and gave me blisters. Lots of tender little red patches all over my feet!
Day 39 - Low Gap Campsite to No Business Knob Shelter.
14.6 miles. 4,392 steps. 351 flights of stairs climbed. 4,391 calories burned.
Last night was cold and our tent was sloped sideways, so I kept rolling onto Chris in the night. Neither of us slept well. I woke early needing the loo, but it was really windy and cold so I got straight back into my sleeping bag and packed everything from there. We managed to start hiking by 8am and walked quickly to keep ourselves warm. No-one else from camp was up apart from Mountain Goat and his mum, who we leapfrogged for most of the day. We climbed Bald Mountain and spent some time enjoying the incredible views from the top. Then as we descended to a slightly lower meadow, we saw two white-tailed deer skipping across the grass. It was pretty cool!
Lunch was spent by a beautiful stream in a forest. As we were eating a man called Half Slow came up and told us that we looked great in our beautiful spot. He then recited a John Muir poem to us, saying he felt inspired by the way we were sat on the rocks. He had memorised the whole poem and it was very well recited, but also a very bizarre moment. We saw him again later in the afternoon and had a nice chat; what a lovely guy!
Just after we'd eaten we were met by more trail magic at a car park. It was the same family we had met at Brown Gap. We discovered they are the Smith family. They were super friendly and recognised us. The two daughters are adorable and they had their dog with them. Their cousin and dad are thru-hiking the AT so they are meeting them along the way at various points.
Best part of the day - just after the road crossing with the Smith family was a beautiful section of trail with lots of lovely waterfalls and wooden bridges over them.
Worst part - we camped at the shelter and Chris had claimed a tree near our tent for our bear bag. As soon as Squeak arrived, she made a comment about our bag being too close to camp. She didn't seem to notice all the other bags hanging right over other peoples tents and right next to the shelter. She just wanted to have a go at Chris. He responded by pointing out where all the other bags were and we continued to use our tree. She didn't complain when Dragon and Yelp used a tree closer to her tent. Squeak and Fuego then started to talk about creating a new fire pit because someone was camped too close to the fire pit. We told them not to create new fire pits, but to use the one next to the shelter so they don't damage the environment further. This caused a nasty argument and left everyone feeling a bit tense. It wasn't even cold, so we chose not to join them by the shelter and chilled out by our tent instead.
Day 40 - No Business Knob Shelter to Chestoa Bridge.
6.3 miles. 31,670 steps. 78 flights of stairs climbed. 3,613 calories burned.
Up early and hiked with Sunshine and Forgiven down to the road. We hiked really fast and it was mostly a steep descent to the river. At the road we wanted to hitch a ride into Erwin. There were no cars anywhere. We started walking in the direction of town hoping we wouldn't have to walk the whole 3 miles, then a guy stopped and told us to jump in the back of his truck. He dropped us at the Post Office, where we all had food parcels to sort out.
We'd decided to go to Subway for lunch as it sounded slightly healthier than having McDonald's and was next to the Dollar General. It took nearly 30 minutes to walk there. Everything in Erwin was really spread out and there were no pavements again. Subway had a lack of wifi and plug sockets, but it was great to have a sandwich full of salad. After resupplying in Dollar General, we spent ages in the launderette doing laundry, reorganising our bags and having a wash in the bathrooms. I even managed to wash my hair in the sink. Sunshine had a room booked with Yelp, so went to find her hotel. Forgiven, Chris and I had bought stuff to make hotdogs so hitched back to the river and stealth camped there. We managed to get a lift within 5 seconds of putting out our thumbs!
Best part of the day - cooking hotdogs over a fire and camping by the river.
Worst part - not being able to fully charge our battery pack.
Day 41 - Chestoa Bridge to Beauty Spot Gap.
11.1 miles. 37,318 steps. 364 flights of stairs climbed. 4,479 calories burned.
Sunshine met us at our camp spot at 8am and had brought McDonald's breakfast with her. She had been disappointed to miss the hotdogs, but hadn't wanted to let Yelp down. We ate breakfast and then walked over to Johnny's Hostel to chill and use their wifi, just across the river from our camp.
The first part of the hike was really nice and passed a beautiful river, so we stopped and the boys swam in it. It was so cold they could barely breathe. The rest of the day was all up mountains and there was barely any shade. Chris was grumpy all afternoon because he hadn't slept well. He was so grumpy he didn't appreciate the view from Beauty Spot. Luckily the campsite was just the other side of the bald. We spent the whole day with Sunshine and Forgiven, but also saw Cheers and Castaway a few times.
Best part of the day - we had a really nice morning chilling with friends and enjoying the sun.
Worst part - the lack of shade whilst climbing mountains led to lots of grumbling.
Day 42 - Beauty Spot Gap to Greasy Creek Gap.
14 miles. 40,256 steps. 330 flights of stairs climbed. 4,588 calories burned.
One of the other guys in the campsite started vomiting loudly in the middle of the night. I could hear him zipping and unzipping his tent to throw up outside it all night. It did worry me that Norovirus may have spread and we'd all been sharing the same water source. It turned out that the guy had food poisoning from a dodgy Taco Bell burrito and was feeling fine again in the morning.
Spent the day hiking with Sunshine and Forgiven again. We climbed Unaka Mountain first, which became a really cool dark pine forest and looked like we had stepped into Narnia, but then the forest returned to it's usual dry self with lots of bare trees and brown leafy floor.
Lunch was spent at a shelter where lots of people showed up, including Sparrow, who we hadn't seen for ages. He had accidentally hiked southbound for over a mile so was at the shelter for the second time. It was a nice lunch break, spent laughing and having fun. Cheers and Castaway were there too, and Fuego & Squeak, Dragon & Annie and Yelp all turned up as we were leaving.
We all spent the afternoon leapfrogging each other and camped together in the evening. Squeak and Chris had another argument about campfires because Forgiven, Castaway and Cheers wanted to burn ice cream tubs on the fire and Squeak said they weren't allowed to burn waxy paper. Chris pointed out that Fuego has been using wax fire starters for almost every campfire and that wax wasn't the issue. The evening got a little awkward, but was then followed by Fuego asking Forgiven to describe what makes a man in a really patronising way, which soon made things much worse. I found the question rather sexist and felt Fuego was patronising Forgiven on purpose because he's younger than everyone else. Chris and I had started getting ready for bed by this point, but were listening in. Forgiven seemed to answer well, but this didn't satisfy the others and they then started asking Forgiven to justify his religious beliefs. Forgiven is a devout Christian and the rest of the guys knew this, but they continued to hound him with questions. Chris shouted from our tent that it's not a good conversation topic because we started to feel that people were ganging up on Forgiven. A woman in a neighboring tent also seemed to have this view and shouted to everyone to shut up so she could sleep. Thankfully everyone started getting ready for bed and left Forgiven alone.
Although Chris and I do not believe in God, we both felt the scenario was completely unfair to Forgiven and yet he held himself really well and clearly has alot of knowledge around the topic. We told him the next day that he stood up for himself brilliantly.
Best part of the day - there was a tree on Unaka Mountain that was decorated like a Christmas tree. It seemed to be a memorial for a young boy. It was a really nice find in the dark forest. Sunshine called her sister Sketti whilst we were sat next to it and we sang Happy Birthday to her.
Worst part - the arguing and ageist/patronising remarks in the evening. People are starting to clash alot and we want to break free again so we can hike without this stress. We didn't come to the wilderness for social dramas.
Day 43 - Greasy Creek Gap to Carvers Gap.
12.1 miles. 42,815 steps. 400 flights of stairs climbed. 5,037 calories burned.
Apparently there was a large animal wandering through camp last night, but no signs of anything this morning. We left camp at 8am and hiked with Sunshine and Forgiven before anyone else had even woken up. We met a section hiker called Joel, who joined us for the rest of the day too. He was great and had alot to say on a variety of topics. Chris loved speaking to him and was in a much better mood for it.
We all hiked up to the top of Roan Mountain together and wandered around the lovely grassy top where a hotel used to stand. Several turkey vultures flew over the valley between the mountains, which was pretty cool. I found the climbing challenging today because it was really warm and I kept needing to stop and drink more water. Everyone else seemed to find the day easier than they had been thinking it would be.
We stealth camped again down in a pine forest off the road. Yelp, Feugo & Squeak, Dragon & Annie (now known as Nav) also camped in the same spot. Yelp was in a weird mood and kept making derogatory comments about Chris, but with a kind-of laugh afterwards. He asked about our plans for the next town stop and I said we may zero there as we'd heard there was cheap camping. Yelp responded by laughing and saying that Chris is arrogant and hypocritical. I wasn't sure what had been said at the time, but just said that we have only had one proper zero and very few stays in town. I don't know why I felt the need to defend our plans, but I was left feeling baffled and annoyed.
Turns out that Chris had spoken to Yelp earlier about our plans and they had conversed about their differing opinions regarding town-stays. Yelp seemed to think that we hadn't wanted to stay in towns at all, so obviously thought it was hypocritical that we were now planning a zero. What Chris had actually meant was that we wanted to limit our town stays and enjoy the wilderness without regularly craving creature comforts that towns offer. This is probably a discussion that's best avoided on the trail. Everyone has different values and ideas about their hike and it seems to create a strange competition between hikers.
The evening was uncomfortable for everyone again. But again, our discomfort was only the start. Fuego & Squeak started debating religion with Forgiven again and were demanding Forgiven justify his views with evidence. We stepped in and said that it needed to end because it's not fair to have this conversation two nights in a row. Sunshine also stepped in and started defending Forgiven. The two of them expressed their Christian beliefs in a very articulate way and were clearly very well versed in these arguments. Chris and I retired early to bed to avoid any more drama.
Best part of the day - the top of Roan Mountain was beautiful and it was nice to spend the day talking to Joel. He was really friendly and interesting to chat to.
Worst part - everything that happened in camp in the evening.
Day 44 - Carvers Gap to Doll Flats.
11.8 miles. 37,715 steps. 253 flights of stairs climbed. 4,317 calories burned.
Forgiven got up and hiked off on his own really early. Sunshine ate breakfast with me and then went off after him. Chris and I left camp at 9am and hiked by ourselves for the morning, until we ran into Joel again just past the Victory Trail. We spent the rest of the day with him.
We stopped for a break at a spring and found a tiny brown snake, which Joel picked up for us to look at. I'm not a huge fan of snakes, but it was quite cute. In the afternoon we climbed up Jane Bald and Little Hump, which looked a little like the moors in England but had much better views from the top. The descent over the other side was tough. There were a lot of rocks to climb over and our knees and ankles were aching alot by the end.
Doll Flats was a beautiful meadow and the last point for us in North Carolina. Sunshine was having a nap here as we arrived and said she hadn't caught up with Forgiven but had been in contact with him. She came and got some water with me then hiked on into Roan Mountain town, where Forgiven was. Joel also said goodbye and headed home from his trip.
We set up our tent in the late afternoon and decided to just spend one night in Roan Mountain town, hiking there in the morning. Yelp, Fuego & Squeak, and Dragon & Nav arrived and set up their tents. We said hi and were polite, but didn't socialise. Neither of us had the energy. Yelp was pleasant and came over to chat, which was nice.
Best part of the day - the awesome views from Jame Bald and Little Hump.
Worst part - it was really hot and sunny all day. No shade; got sun burnt.
Day 45 - Doll Flats to Roan Mountain.
3 miles. 27,291 steps. 8 flights of stairs climbed. 3,891 calories burned.
Up and out of camp early. The whole hike descended to the road. Chris and I had an argument on the walk, but were fine by the time we reached the road. Hitched a ride into Roan Mountain with a hiker called Double Back. He dropped us at Bob's Dairyland, where we went for breakfast. We used their power point to charge our battery and made use of the wifi. The food was incredible and really cheap. The whole place was odd. It was a greasy spoon style diner with pro-gun posters on the walls and some interesting characters drinking coffee. Sunshine and Forgiven met us there and we managed to get a lift from a local lady to the Post Office. She was really friendly and said she'd be playing with her band later at the Trail Fest. Post Office was closed, but the park where the Trail Fest was taking place was right next to it. Forgiven had informed us that there was free camping in the park next to the river, so we pitched next to him and Sunshine.
They cooked dinner for us in the park's kitchen and we ate whilst watching the live music. There were barely any people there which was a shame, but we met a guy called Twig, who had a mini guitar and was amazing at improvising songs, so spent the evening creating hiking jingles. It was great. We also got to see Rockin Ronnie play some of his songs. Although he's completely inappropriate with most the females on the trail, I can't dis his guitar playing.
Best part of the day - such a lovely evening with tasty food, live music and friends.
Worst part - I ate way too many sugary foods and spent the whole night feeling sick.
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