Homer's Travels: Appalachian Trail: Erwin, TN To Mountain Harbor Hostel

Monday, May 20, 2019

Appalachian Trail: Erwin, TN To Mountain Harbor Hostel

UPDATED 10-18-2020

During this part of the Appalachian Trail (AT) I finally entered my third state.  I like that I'm seeing progress as I trudge northward.

The dense spruce forest.
Day 44 - I left the hostel early after saying goodbye to another thru-hiker who was shuttling to Damascus for Trail Days.  Many hikers who can't get to Damascus in time shuttle there to participate in the festivities.  I decided I would not partake until I earned it by getting to Katahdin.  I see a trip for me in May of next year.

The climb out of Erwin was difficult but not terrible.  I met a newbie after the first shelter.  She'd started in Erwin and was hoping to meet up on the trail with her thru-hiker nephew.  I don't think she will be on the trail for long.  She needed help putting up her tent.  All of her food was in the form of nutrition shake powder.  No 'real’ food.  Other people who saw her said she was struggling.

At a pass where the AT crossed a road I met Brother Tom handing out Trail Magic.  I had lemonade, banana bread, and a brownie.  He had been doing this for years.  He commented how slow it was due to trail days.  I didn't expect magic this late.  Most 'professional' trail magicians travel with the March/April bubbles.

I arrived at my target campsite.  I sat down and drank some water.  I decided to push on.  The added miles would not shorten my AT but it would allow me to stop at a famous shelter located in a converted barn.

The next four miles were pretty awful.  I climbed up a steep mountain which had a dense spruce forest on the top.  At one campsite partway up I noticed a tree decorated with Christmas ornaments.  A note book explained that it was a memorial for a young man of twenty-two.  At the bottom of the notebook cover was the suicide prevention hotline number.  I left a message in the book but failed to take down the information.

The trail snaked through the dense spruce forest.  The trail was somewhat vague so I walked from one white blaze to the next.

The trail down the mountain was difficult and my cranky left foot was having none of it.  By the time I got to the Cherry Gap Shelter my foot was hurting and I was pooped.  I did 17.1 miles (27.5 km).

I arrived to the shelter after 5:00pm and I was the only one there.  Two others arrived over the next hour or so.  Three people in a shelter area is rare.  I ate, hung my food bag, and went to bed early. I dreamt I lost all my stuff while on vacation.  It rained early in the morning and I was glad I'd skipped the campsite and moved on to the shelter.

Another day … Another view.
Day 45 - After the long day I did a short day to the next shelter.  I only hiked 9.1 miles (14.6 km) but I was ready to stop.  My foot started out cranky but got better as I got closer to the shelter.  I don't really understand what's going on with my left foot.  It seems that tying my shoelaces tighter helps my foot.

Day 46 - This was a long day but satisfying.  The up was tough and the down was welcome.

I passed the site of an old hotel that was dismantled a long time ago.  I took a break at the highest shelter on the AT, Roan High Knob shelter.   The shelter is actually a cabin with a door but it also had some Blair Witch vibes too.  Apparently from the log notes the shelter is really cold at night.

The attic of the Roan High Knob Shelter.  A bit spooky.
I ended the day at Overmountain Shelter, an old barn converted into a shelter, but was disappointed to find it full of boy scouts.  I tented for the fifth time to get away from the ruckus.  The tent area had an incredible view.

Talked to Betty who was thinking about thru-hiking.  I gave her advice and told her how it was on the trail.   I hope she got something from my experience.

The view from my tent site.
Day 47 - I got up early, broke camp, waved goodbye to Betty, and headed up to Little Hump mountain.  The climb was steep but short.  The views were, as usual, awesome.  A group of hikers had camped on the top of Little Hump.  In hindsight camping up here would have been better than at the old barn.

Near the top of Hump mountain.
Next came Hump mountain.  It was taller and covered in grass like little hump.  The place was magical.  The area is know as the Roan Highlands and it reminded me of what I think the Scottish Highlands are like.  As I paused and looked around I realized I was exactly where I belonged.  I wish I'd known about this spot beforehand so I could have tented there and watched the Sunset, Sunrise, and all the stars in between.  Maybe up ahead somewhere.

As I left the highlands I finally crossed into Tennessee.  For a while the AT had bounced between Tennessee and North Carolina.

Another state bites the dust.
Then the downhill started.  It was one of those long descents that seems to never end.  I finally reached the road and followed it to Mountain Harbor Hostel.

I got a bed, took a shower, washed some clothes, and ate a pint of Ben and Jerry's.  I resupplied at their well stocked general store and had a burger, fries, and a salad for dinner.

At the end of the day vans rolled in bring hikers who had jumped ahead for Damascus Trail Days.  The trails will not be so empty tomorrow.

It will be a late start tomorrow as the all you can eat breakfast starts at 8:00am.

Pictures can be found in my 2019 Appalachian Trail Google Photos album.

Total Distance: 395.2 Miles (571.58 km)
Section Distance: 69.0 Miles (111.0 km)
Section Elevation Up: 14,697 ft (4,480 m)
Section Elevation Down: 16,998 ft (5,181 m)

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