Day 25 – Sunday, April 3: Roaring Fork Shelter to Hot Springs, NC, 17.0 miles, 273.7 total AT miles.

I finished writing at around 8:30 last night and quickly fell asleep. At 2:00am, I woke to the sharp snap of wood buckling. The high winds had just felled a tree close to our camp – so close that we all felt the earth shake when it came down. I can’t remember the last time I heard the wind howling like this.

Owl quickly abandoned his hammock and sprinted for the shelter. I tried to wait the wind storm out, but 15 minutes later Shaggy’s tent got hit with a huge branch. And that was enough for the both of us. While Medicine Man and Moon Boots decided to sleep on, Shaggy and I packed up and quickly left camp. As we hiked out of Roaring Fork at 4:00am, I noticed a huge limb had fallen near the bear cables. It was some pretty rough weather.

And to top it off, it was freezing outside. My thermometer read 28 degrees as I left camp. So cold, in fact, I resorted to wearing socks over my gloves. I sipped water as I hiked, not wanting my Sawyer to freeze – I figured if I could keep a steady stream of water flowing through my external water filter, it wouldn’t freeze.

Shaggy and I stopped at Walnut Mountain Shelter for a hot breakfast at sunrise. We sat on the calm side of a breezy bald and shivered as we ate. As I was packing up to go, I tried to take a quick sip of water. The drinking tube, and my Sawyer, were frozen solid. That truly stunk – if you freeze a Sawyer, it essentially becomes obsolete. And considering I kept my back-up Sawyer in an outside pocket, I was fairly sure that one was frozen too. 

Thankfully, Shaggy tucked his Sawyer into his jacket to keep it warm and we hiked on.

We cleared branches from the trail as we walked. While the sun was finally starting to rise, it was still very cold. It wasn’t until our summit of Bluff Mountain that we started to shed layers.

After 6 hours of steady hiking, we emerged from the woods into Hot Springs, NC at 1:30pm.

The only picture I took today.

We decided to take advantage of our early entry into Hot Springs by renting a cheap room at the Alpine Court. After quick showers, we ate a late lunch at Hot Springs BBQ located just across the street.

So what do hikers talk about while on the trail? Shaggy and I had never hiked together before. Up until this morning, the only thing we shared was a mutual desire to not get crushed by a falling tree.

As we left camp, we talked about things that would make our hike in this dark, windy night MORE creepy. It was decided that wandering across a weeping child (by headlamp) would be about the creepiest thing that could happen.

As we descended Bluff Mountain, we talked about our “real” lives – including our fears, desires, etc. Pretty intimate details, for sure, but it was a very natural conversation, assuredly – the bond formed by two people doing something ridiculous and kind of scary.

We took a break at 12:30 at the Deer Park Mountain Shelter and discussed food. Specifically, what we wanted to eat once we got to Hot Springs. I accurately predicted we’d find a pimento cheeseburger on the menu in town. But I really wanted hot wings.

And as we began our steep descent into Hot Springs, we wondered how far behind everyone else was. We tried to predict when and in what order our friends would arrive in town. It had become a running joke that Canuck (who literally runs down the trail) would have somehow found a way to beat us there.

Fast forward to Shaggy and I thoroughly enjoying our lunch. We’d been in Hot Springs for maybe an hour and a half when, out of nowhere, Medicine Man walked up. He apparently left Roaring Fork at sunrise and didn’t look back. He was hungry and exhausted. The three of us ate and waited for the rest of the group to arrive.

After a successful resupply at the Dollar General, the others started trickling into Hot Springs. The eight of us ate dinner at the same restaurant we had lunch in and fell fast asleep. It was a rough day for all, no matter what time they left camp.

Today was the first time the weather truly scared me. It reinforced my understanding that I’m not really in control of much in this life. I’m thankful no one got hurt. We found out later that a tree nearly crushed a hiker, tearing her rainfly as it came down.

I’m calling this an early night. I’m looking forward to taking the day off tomorrow. I need a zero day. There’s a lot to accomplish and I’ve yet to really get started. I’m excited to check out Bluff Mountain Outfitters – I hope they carry Sawyer water filters.

Breakfast: instant mashed potato burritos, sugar cookies
Lunch: fried chicken sandwich, fries
Dinner: 12 hot wing, Philly cheesesteak (sub pimento cheese), no fries, sub beef chili.

Money:

Alpine Court: $15.o0

Dollar General: $61.65 (5+ days of food)

Hot Springs BBQ (lunch): $12.00 plus $4.00 tip

Hot Springs BBQ (dinner): $18.00 plus $6.00 tip

Author: Chris Kummer

Hey y'all - Cool Dad here. Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to thru-hike the AT. It remained a nagging thought for nearly a decade - then it got loud enough to warrant my attention. So I quit my unfulfilling job(s) in Seattle and commenced hiking north from Springer in the spring of 2016. And I'm exceedingly thankful I did. The people I met, the things I saw, the gross foods I ate - not a day goes by without fondly remembering life on the trail. If you've already thru-hiked a long trail, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you're thinking about tackling a long-distance hike, do it. Do it now. I'm probably gonna do it again...

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