Staying in Erwin was unexpected and actually the opposite of what I originally had planned and wanted to do, but I left the little town with a good feeling in my heart. Hanging out at Ms. Janet’s house with all the other hikers and making spaghetti in a real kitchen made me feel at home and happy. Sometimes the trail surprises me by showing me so blatantly that I am where I’m supposed to be; I love every bit of it.
After the bluegrass festival Ms. Janet dropped Dirty J and I at the Nolichuky River where we first came off the trail into town. The sun was already hidden behind the mountains, so we decided to pitch camp at the next best camp spot for the night. We found a nice site by a big creek and crashed. The stars lit up the sky that night, they were so bright.
The next morning Dirty J started hiking before I did to try and catch up with his brother Bones. Funny how it all worked out; we both thought Bones was in front of us, but he actually camped about a mile back. He ended up heading to the trail that morning shortly after Dirty J and right before me. We all ended up running into each other in the next couple hours by surprise. That day we walked across a bald called the Beauty Spot where we looked over tiny Erwin and the rolling mountains surrounding. We took a long lunch during the worst heat of the day then walked into the evening. Unaka Mountain was the tough climb of the day through a beautiful dense spruce forest that I wished we had camped in; however, we had no water so we continued hiking to the next spring and camped a short distance past.
“Hey Abbey, get up!” I woke up to King kicking my tent at eight in the morning. I died laughing because he always seems to show up at the randomest of times and say the funniest things. We all began getting up and carrying on our usual morning routines of making coffee and eating something along the lines of oatmeal or honey buns.
Rain poured down on us in scattered showers while we walked throughout the day, so when we ran across the Greasy Creek Hostel we were so thankful for a safehaven from the cold rain. The names of the owners slip my mind but they are so interesting and great great people who also enjoy hiking. Inside I made my lunch of pasta and veggies while they told all of us about the elephant that Erwin had put to trial and attempted to hang for murder of its abusive trainer. I had heard the story before, but to hear it from someone from the town and to see the newspaper clippings and pictures was unreal. How our judicial system got away with putting an elephant on trial is still a mystery to me; they say it is Erwin’s most embarrassing moment allowing the hanging to take place in their town. We hung out on the couches, took power naps, and watched the storms roll in on the news radar until there was a break in the rain, then we headed back to the trail.
The rain ended up clearing up for us that night and it turned into a really nice evening. We camped on Little Rock Knob a beautiful campsite with a great view on top of the mountain even though we had to walk to get water for the night. King and I were led to believe that water was just .3 of a mile away, but it was actually .8 straight down the mountain. We walked for about thirty minutes with four or five different containers of water each back up the mountain and attempted to laugh it off, but instead we deemed the brothers the next water retrievers.
The sunset was beautiful, and the sunrise was even more so. We carried on our usual morning routines while listening to reggae music like Mike Love and Rebelution then set off for the daunting climb of Roan Mountain. Roan Mountain held an incredibly gorgeous view at six thousand feet that reminded us all of the Smokies. There were tons of pines, and we were at such a high elevation. We had the opportunity to stand in the old Cloudland Canyon Hotel that used to stand at its peak; only a piece of its foundation and its old chimney still stood. They say the old hotel sat on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, and so drinking alcohol was only allowed on one side of the lobby. It’s funny. We laughed and joked about the guests receiving tickets after becoming too drunk and falling over the border. We walked a few more miles before hitching to Hampton from Carver’s Gap in order to be next to Blackbear Resort which the trail crossed half a mile down the road. Rylie, one of my good good friends booked a cabin for her and her sister’s visit that weekend. I had a brain fart thinking it was in Roan, not Hampton the next town north of us. Seeing Rylie, Deanna, and my puppy Spring was awesome and I had a ton of fun. Rylie plans on hiking the AT next spring, so it was nice to be able to share with her what was actually in store for her. I appreciate all she did for me before the trail, teaching me about it and helping me believe that I actually could achieve my dream that I had talked about since she met me. Thanks Rylie, you lift my spirits with just your presence and I look up to you so much. You’ll have plenty of trail magic coming your way next spring! We dropped Bones and Dirty J at Carver’s Gap where we left off at mile 378.9 the second afternoon and I stayed with them one more night. The winds that afternoon nearly blew us all over while seeing the guys off and it continued to blow them off the trail with gusts up to 80mph. I was glad to get one more night with my friends and to not be in that wind.
When we returned to the cabin we took a great great nap together until late evening; I felt so rested and refreshed. We went for a walk and I showed them around where the trail crossed down the road. I wish the weather had been better so they could have hiked further with me, but hanging out was plenty satisfying. The next morning we made a Dunkin’ coffee run and headed back up Roan Mountain to Carver’s Gap where we said our goodbyes in the rushing winds, and I began walking up Round Bald. I left them feeling so happy for the opportunity to be surrounded by people who really knew me, but I didn’t say much which I would take back. I do miss our times hanging out and laughing, watching movies or walking and playing with the dogs. I felt lonely walking back onto the trail without my newfound friends after saying goodbye, but I was excited for the new experience of camping and hiking alone.