Day mileage: 15
AT total mileage: 288.60
Time: 7 hours
Sleeping in Hot Springs was tough. I was on the floor in my sleeping bag which at this point feels normal, but the drone of trucks engine braking through town is something I'm not used to at all. As such, I spent almost all night with headphones in, quietly listening to John Mayer to help me fall/stay asleep.
I woke up officially at just before 9 AM, and hopped in the shower for one more heavenly hot water session before packing up for the day. Aiming to use as much of the shampoo/conditioner that I purchased as possible, I began an old trick I've heard for non-itchy beard growth of shampooing my beard. We'll see how that works out, haha. Crusoe, who intended to spend the day in town, was awake when I got out of the shower. We ate a normal trail breakfast instead of going to the diner again, as Nero days can really add up in cost. At 10:55 we left the motel & headed down Main Street where I stopped at the post office & ATM before crossing the railroad tracks and bridge out of town. Immediately after the bridge the A.T. hops the guard rail and turns down into the woods. We walked along the river for half a mile or so before the pathway took a sharp left turn and headed up into the mountains. It was a steep climb out of the valley that had many muscles in my legs burning before long. The extra weight of new food is immediately noticeable and somewhat uncomfortable.
I stopped a few times on the way up that first mountain, at one point meeting Landslide, a 22 year old hiker from North Dakota. She and I were talking when she pointed out a rather large black snake sunning himself on a fallen tree. This is only the second snake I've seen, but was much larger than the first. I continued on ahead of her, and at the peak of the first mountain I came across Whitey in a small campsite, who had stopped to eat some of his newly purchased food to cut down on weight. I followed suite, eating a few things and leaving some Pop-Tart trail magic for others. Every time after a resupply there's a day or two where the pack needs to be adjusted for new weight. This is very frustrating, and I stopped a handful of times throughout the day to move things around inside. I split off the trail at one point to visit another fire tower, speaking with a group of French hikers who said in broken English that the view was '50/50'. I went up anyways, and enjoyed panoramic scenery of the mountains, Hot Springs, and a rather large cell tower.
Around 4 I came across the Spring Mountain Shelter where most people were spending the night. It was 11 miles out of town and at the top of a climb that many apparently got winded on after their time off the day before. I wasn't comfortable with only putting in 11 miles on the trail, and I convinced Whitey and Cheesepuff to join me for another 4 miles to make it to a campsite I'd seen on another map. Landslide came along as well, and we pulled into the campsite around 5:30. After getting almost completely set up, Whitey came back from getting water and announced there was a larger campsite nearby down the trail that would fit us more comfortably. Due to the proximity and ultimately laziness, I decided it'd be a good idea just to carry my assembled tent down the trail. This was quite the sight to see apparently, and Landslide captured a few photos which she'll send me to post.
Camp is a level place with room for a half dozen tents but no water. We wandered out to the state road that's 1,000' away or so, and asked a couple nearby if we could use their spigot; their response was simply 'round back'. We built a small campfire and ate dinner. I changed things up a bit by adding broccoli and cheddar instant rice to a large tortilla and enjoying that. Hopped into bed around 2120hrs and caught up on the last 4 days of my shortly written journal entries, then followed up by writing this.
Scattered thunderstorms are slated for tomorrow, but we'll see. Mileage wise I'm looking at 18 for tomorrow, as I'm interested in keeping with higher mileage going forward and also rather enjoy the time in the rain.
Literally posting from another point on the North Carolina/Tennessee state line, where every pick-up truck needs a muffler and subsequently sounds like an 18-wheeler... I hope you're all doing well!