March 27, 2018
Destination: Stealth Campsite at AT mile 415.4 Today's Miles: 20.60
Start Location: US 19E Road Crossing / Harbour Inn Trip Miles: 415.40
I woke up at 7am. Breakfast was at 8, so I had just enough time to pull my gear and self together so I would be ready to hit the trail after.
I had trouble going to sleep last night. I stayed up late journaling and then struggled to fall asleep. I slept soundly once I did though. The fan in the bunkhouse had a nice white noise effect.
We all headed up to breakfast, our spirits high. It was sprinkling ever so lightly, but the forecast today was largely clear.
We got up to the main house and my eyes bulged at the spread! They were just finishing setting it all up, so we grabbed coffee while we waited. Real coffee! I realized I had left my phone charging in the bunkhouse, and was disappointed not to get pictures of the food. I think Pritch at least took a picture of his plate, so maybe I can get that photo from him. From memory, there were: biscuits and gravy, french toast with maple walnut topping, a soufflé, sausage and ham, tomato pie, coconut coffee cake, raspberry strudel, some Easter cookies, potatoes with bits of bacon, pineapple and strawberries. It was an awesome bacchanalia! I ate three plates full of food. Honestly, the quality and craft of David’s cooking was over the top. I felt like I was dining at a fine restaurant! We all talked and enjoyed ourselves, and then thoroughly thanked Shannon and David for their hospitality, and showered David with compliments on the food. God, I wish I could do it again tomorrow. Like I said, soon Gillian and I will be roomies with Shannon and David - they just don’t know it yet.
We left STUFFED!
Beaker Beaker Beaker....huge thanks for the recommendation! If you hadn’t said something, I wouldn’t have known and probably wouldn’t have ended up there. No way another place could possibly top that breakfast! No way. Also, I just really liked the bunkhouse and the friendly, caring vibe there. So far it is easily the best place I’ve stayed on the trail. If any of you are planning a hike through the area, I can’t recommend Harbour Inn highly enough! Off my soapbox....
We set out to hike. Most left before me. Tennessee was hanging around the general store. It was chilly and still s little drizzly, but I was glowing on the inside. I walked back up the highway and turned onto the trail. There were multiple signs warning of leaving cars in the parking lot at the trailhead overnight due to vandalism. There was also a sign about the Golden-Wing Warbler. It said that it is a rare species in Tennessee and they were doing some work on or near the trail to revitalize its habitat to encourage them to breed and thrive. I looked for one today but did not see one.
I hiked on and soon ran into some of the guys. The hiking today had a few climbs, but for the most part it was pretty average in terms of difficulty - not too demanding. I hiked with Nate for a while and the trail opened up to a river - the Elk River. It was gorgeous and really the first time the trail had meandered beside a river for any meaningful stretch.
Everyone was headed towards Moreland Gap Shelter. St one point after just catching up with Starbucks and Pritch, I came around the corner to two volunteers putting a traction wire covering over one of the bridges over the AT. Their names were Kim and Terri and they were volunteers with one of the clubs (I can’t remember which) that does local trail maintenance. The volunteers really are the unsung heroes of the AT. They are the AT - the trail is what you make it, as Ridgerunner Chloe would say. We thanked them for their work, and then Kim said “are you Hungry Cat?” She had been following my trail journal and thought she might catch me hiking through her stretch. I was tickled that she reads these scribblings. Kim and Terri, it was so nice to meet you! Thank you and the other gents for helping to make the trail beautiful and safe! Shortly after leaving the two ladies, I came upon a group of gentlemen with chainsaws. They were also volunteers and were working to clear hazardous trees that had fallen, or partially fallen. These people were amazing!
I hiked on and pulled away from the others. Hungry Cat was on cruise control, riding the morning’s calories. It was a beautiful day. The drizzle had ceased and it was warm. For the first time in a while, I spent the whole day hiking on dirt - no snow, no ice, no slush! The mud was “just mud.” It was a beautiful thing. The trail was full of stream crossings. After last night, the breakfast, and the good company, I felt like a million bucks. In love with the trail, I hiked my little heart out.
There was nothing especially momentous about the hike today. It just felt good. When I got to Moreland Gap Shelter, there was a Dad. with his two young boys there. They very politely made space. Mike (iiuii) showed up. I had passed him on the trail bit too far back, but he was heading to a hostel about 5 miles away. I chatted and ate a snickers. I almost talked myself into waking another 8 miles to the next shelter, but it was quarter to 5. I laid out my sleeping pad, and then Pritch arrived. He said that his Guthook app showed a camp spot just a little over 2 miles down the trail. I decided to pack up and go with him and Starbucks. I had a 24 mile day planned tomorrow, and that would make it a shorter day tomorrow. My AWOL guide did not mention campsites at this spot, only water. More and more I am thinking about getting Guthook as a companion to my AWOL guide.
I went with Starbucks and Pritch, and, sure enough, there was a huge meadow with lots of room for tenting at this spot, and a piped spring. We all pitched our tents. Derwood and Nate showed up. It was a fun night at camp as we chatted and ate our food at mile 415 on the AT. I crossed the 400 mile marker today. 69 to Damascus! For dinner I had a Knorr Cajun rice side. I added a small packet of olive oil to it. I also ate a tuna packet in sunflower seed oil, an oatmeal cream pie, and a moon pie. Good solid nutrition.
Today I was grateful for basically everything, but in particular good people, great weather and hiking, dry boots at the end of the day, and a smashing breakfast to kick it all off. Tomorrow is another day for this Hungry Cat! Tomorrow is also Mrs. Hungry Cat’s birthday! I hate missing that but will be excited to find a signal and talk with Gillian because, well, she’s just the best!