It was great seeing Jonathan pull into the hostel. I hadn’t seen him since April, because when I went home for a few days in August after Maine, he and his family were at the beach. We started Tuesday, September 19th with a superb breakfast at the main house of the Mountain Harbour Hostel. The owners, Shannon and David, were very kind and accommodating.
After breakfast we were driven back to the Elk Park trail head, where I had ended my hike the previous day. We enjoyed good weather as we hiked the 13.6 miles back to the hostel. Here is a picture of the hiker hostel.
During the hike, we took a spur trail to Jones Falls, where we ate lunch. You can’t tell by the picture, but those Falls were amazingly high.
As we continued down the Trail, we came upon this dead tree. Jon remarked that it looked like it could have been used in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
Towards the end of our hike we enjoyed these wonderful views.
Jonathan and I got up early on Wednesday the 20th and were on the Trail before 0700. We head-lamped for about 25 minutes as we started a 2700-foot ascent up Hump Mountain. There aren’t very many 2700-foot ascents on the AT. The slope wasn’t bad, but going up that much in elevation for 5.5 continuous miles can be challenging. I was a bit concerned about Jonathan but he did just fine. I didn’t have anything to worry about regarding Jonathan’s hiking ability. We continued on 14.8 miles to Carvers Gap.
Shortly into the hike, I saw this sign stating that we were in North Carolina. This is somewhat misleading, as the entire Smokies snake their way in and out of both states on ridge line borders. Most of the time you don’t know what state you are in. So, until I reach Georgia, these posts will be labeled Tennessee and North Carolina.
The hike offered beautiful 360-degree views from Jane and Round Balds. We were both very impressed. This was a gorgeous part of the Trail. Fortunately, the weather was good throughout the day. Here are some views that made our hike memorable.
The barn in this picture is privately owned, but hikers are allowed to use it as a shelter.
When we arrived at Carvers Gap, we were shuttled back to Mountain Harbour where we picked up Jon’s car and drove to Erwin, TN. We went out to eat and then settled in to our new hostel, Cantarroso Farm.
On Thursday the 21st, I was up at 0530 and made coffee. Jon and I, each morning, could star in a remake of The Odd Couple. One of us is organized with a purpose and the other is not. Regardless, the shuttle driver did not wait too long and we were soon on our way back to Carvers Gap.
We began our 16-mile hike to Iron Mountain Gap at 0730 with good weather, but first we climbed Roan Mountain with an elevation of 6200 feet. This is one of the highest elevations on the AT.
On Roan Mountain, we passed the former site of a three-story luxury hotel in the 1880s called The Cloudland Hotel. Logistically, it is hard to imagine how anything could be built up here, let alone a luxury hotel. The only remnant was this fireplace/chimney which presently sits in the middle of the Trail.
Half of the hotel was in Tennessee and half was in North Carolina. Apparently there was a white line across the dining room floor indicating the state boundary. This was important because at that time, it was legal to drink alcohol in Tennessee but not in North Carolina. It was not uncommon for a North Carolina sheriff to be present, making sure guests did not cross the line. Room rates were $2 per night, $10 per week and $30 per month!
This picture was taken from the site of the hotel:
We had lunch at Little Rock Knob amidst these beautiful views.
After lunch the hiking was easier, and we made good time as we descended to Iron Mountain Gap. We were shuttled back to Cantarroso Farm, where we showered and went out to eat. Upon our return, we started a fire in the fire ring and enjoyed a cigar and some scotch. Both Jon and I enjoyed our cabin at Cantarroso Farm and agreed that it had been an extremely enjoyable day.
The weather on Friday the 22nd looked promising. I was so happy we had nice weather during Jonathan’s stay. It was our last day of hiking together, and we were on the road heading to the trail head at 0700. We hiked 11.8 miles to Indian Grave Gap in Erwin, TN.
During the hike we ascended Unaka Mountain. On the summit there was a dense spruce forest. This certainly is unusual, and walking through it was peaceful and at least ten degrees cooler.
Here is a picture of Jon on one of the balds, and pics of both of us at various points in the day.
Fortunately, it was a short hiking day. When we finished, we drove to a hotel west of Asheville, which is about half way to the Trail Head where I will resume my hike. After reaching the hotel we went out to enjoy a Japanese meal, a cigar and a scotch before we called it a night.
Jonathan was a trooper. He got up early on Saturday, September 23rd, brought me to McDonald’s so I could get a breakfast sandwich and coffee, and then drove me about 45 minutes to the trailhead at Davenport Gap.
After we said our goodbyes, I grabbed my trekking poles and went on my way. I will miss Jon. It was good hiking with him. We hiked 56 miles together, and I am confident he had a fairly good taste of the AT. We both enjoyed our time together, and it was a special week, one I will never forget. Thanks for coming, Jon!
The hike that day was strenuous, starting out with a 4,800-foot ascent at the northern entrance to Smoky Mountains National Park. Essentially, the entire day was uphill. I was pretty much beat carrying the Beast on the Trail from 1,439 feet to over 6,300 feet. Once I arrived at Tri-Corner Knob Shelter, I ate, got water for the next day, and headed for bed.
One of the criticisms of the Trail is that there is little diversity; the hikers are essentially all white. Rarely do you see minorities. This, unfortunately, is true. But that night in the shelter, along with other hikers, there was a German and three Amish gents. Although these folks were white, it was certainly a different mix of hikers.
The Amish hikers all had blue long-sleeved shirts, black suspenders, grey dress slacks, beards and straw hats. They were from southern Indiana, and were section hiking. The Amish hikers interacted very little with us, but they were all soft spoken and polite. One of them asked me if it would be OK to build a camp fire. I said that would be no problem and it would probably be appreciated by everyone.
The German, Simon, was from Trier. He is a SOBO thru-hiker. He told me when he left Germany, his goal was to complete the Trail in 100 days. But if he remains on his present schedule, he will actually complete the Trail in 95 days! He said he planned on hiking 29 miles today, and this is definitely not the most hiker-friendly terrain. I find these fast hikers to be amazing. When Simon left the next morning, I knew I would never see him again.
The Amish hikers and I leapfrogged a few times on Sunday the 24th, and we had a few short conversations. I asked if they would mind if I took a picture of them, but one of them simply said, “We don’t allow pictures to be taken.”
The hiking that day, as well as the Smokies so far, was more difficult than I anticipated. Many elevations have been in excess of 6,000 feet, and there have been many challenging ascents and descents. However, the AT in the Smokies offers fantastic views. Although the Smokies have many hiking trails, I think the AT in the Smokies is in a league of its own. At times I felt overwhelmed by the beauty. Here are a few examples.
I ended my day at Newfound Gap. This sign is another indication that you really can’t be sure what state you’re in.
I hitched a 15-mile ride into Gatlinburg. An elderly couple picked me up, and on the way to town they pointed out the devastating damage done by fires the previous year. Once in Gatlinburg, this nice couple drove me directly to the hotel Diane had reserved. I was tired, my feet were sore, and the usual chores of battery charging, laundry and resupply need to be done, so I decided to take a Zero the following day.