My Walk in the Woods, Ch 4

This is the tale of A Lo Hawk’s 132 day, 2200 mile traverse of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in 2008.

My Walk in the Woods, Ch 3

Chapter Four (April 30th-May 6th)

Day 23: (TN)  4 miles to Uncle Johnny’s Hostel in Erwin, TN

Easy am walk down to the road to Erwin, TN where the conveniently located Uncle Johnny’s Hostel sits on several rustic acres. There is a bunkhouse, cabins, washroom/laundry/showers and a tiny store/office. I see the Portland, OR couple PINENUT and POGO plus meet other hikers in the bunkhouse. I am just in time for the morning shuttle to town for breakfast and grocery.

We are dropped off at a convenience store and told to go to a counter in the back. Sweaty ladies are slinging hash in a tight, hot kitchen.  The prices are incredible: eggs, biscuit and gravy, hashbrowns, and coffee for $4.95. There is a steady stream of locals grabbing togo bags and chewing the gossip.

In the afternoon, hikers loiter around the picnic tables under the pavilion taking turns with the washing machines and space on the kinky clotheslines. In the evening, there is a shuttle to a bad mexican restaurant but good ice cream next door. With a taxing week behind me I crash hard and early.

Day 24: (TN)  16 miles from Uncle Johnny’s to Cherry Gap Shelter

I wake up refreshed and sneak out before sunrise to quietly pack my gear on a picnic table covered with crude engravings of AT history. The vending machine delivers mega ounces of Mtn Dewness; a toke of the Angleton Grind delivers a wake n bake slingshot breakfast of champions. Happy Trails!

Once I’ve climbed a bit, I scramble to a rock outcrop, find a good perch and call the wife. I stop and have lunch at Beauty Spot with a fun crew of pirates wearing paper hats from Long John Silvers. I end this pleasant day camping near the shelter with the pirate crew plus good old ‘bama’ boys RED and TC.

Day 25: (TN)  15 miles from Cherry Gap to Roan High Knob Shelter

It is already warm this morning as I sit and get high while keeping an eye on the sleeping lumps in the shelter. A nice day of hiking is interrupted by a tough climb to Roan High Knob. It is very windy on the high point but a nearby shelter is protected by a moat of wind swept trees. I pitch my tent between knarly tree trunks behind the shelter.

Day 26:  18 miles from Roan High Knob to camp near road

I listen to the wind batter the tenacious trees. The morning amble starts with a long lumbering downhill then across several balds. Weather is breezy with occasional light rain but visibility is good.

It dries out in the afternoon, I break out of the forest to a bucolic scene of rolling meadows anchored by the cavernous barn known as Overmountain Shelter.  As impressive as this sight is, it pales in comparison to the carnival under a big white vinyl tarp happening in my direct path.

Two hiking spouses are paying it forward with a weekend of trail magic they carried up the rutted tractor road from their car. There is a boisterous crowd of malingering hiker trash on the lounge chairs and around the beer/soda cooler.

I gratefully wolf down two grilled cheese sandwiches, two bowls of veggie chili and guzzle four ice cold beers. I chat with a hiker named SLIGHTLY, immobile and fully reclined, straw hat hiding his eyes. He seemed only Slightly interested in the AT. I volunteer to push the lumberjack sized hand cart two miles round trip to the car for more supplies — a joyful, bouncy trip down, a nearly sisyphousian ordeal back up.

I camp by a road on soft pine needles.

Day 27: (TN)  21 miles from camp to Kincora Hostel

A long boring day with no views. It is warm and sunny as I trudge through the infamous green tunnel.

Early in the evening I reach Kincora Hostel just as the shuttle leaves for dinner in Elizabethton. More poor mexican food then back to the hostel for a late shower. I am still doing laundry as others are off to bed.

Day 28: (TN)  16 miles from Kincora to Vandeventer Shelter

As usual I am up before anyone else and quickly on the trail in the cool of the day. What a beautiful amble along Laurel Fork River to an impressive waterfall. Then a climb over Pond Mtn to Watauga Lake & Dam. I pass many fishermen and boaters on my way to a nice shelter/campsite with a view of the lake. I smoke the last of my weed while watching the sunset.

Day 29: (TN)  23 miles from Vandeventer Shelter to Abingdon Gap Shelter

I see a bear (#4?) while I am shitting in the woods this morning (insert punchline here). I think this is a good omen but I am wrong.

My legs are feeling the miles today. The weather starts sunny then grows overcast as I grind out a brutal hike threading mountain ridges. 450 official AT miles covered in a month (approx 20 peripheral miles)


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