Day 27 – Tuesday, April 5: Hot Springs, NC to French Broad River (campsite), 1.0 miles, 274.7 total AT miles.

Note: Zero cell service on the French Broad. I know it seems I have it bad, but a lot of hikers haven’t had a reliable signal since leaving Georgia.

Note: It’s Saturday, April 9th – I’m having a continental breakfast at the Super 8 in Erwin, TN. Time to take advantage of wifi.

I woke early and with strong appetite. It didn’t take long to convince Savage and Canuck to join me at the Smoky Mountain Diner for breakfast. The three of us leisurely ate and discussed the day ahead.

I still needed to go to the post office and Canuck needed to purchase food from the Dollar General. I made my way back to the Alpine Court for a final shower.

I then hung out on the bench in front of the library and updated the blog for a solid hour. After hitting the post office and checking out of my room, I walked downtown to wait for the rest of the group to assemble.

Leaving Hot Springs.
The Spring Creek Tavern had just opened for the day. I walked in and grabbed a table on the patio. I ordered light – my real interest was in the free wi-fi.

Over the course of the hour, more in our group started to arrive, ready to leave Hot Springs. Twice I left to shave more Mohawks (18 total). Just as the seven of us were gearing up to hit the trail, Kool-Aid and Koday strolled into town.

It was nice to see those guys – and they were hungry. We sat around for at least another hour and caught up while they ate. They have been very content with their slower pace – and they seemed to enjoy the Smokeys as much as we did.

I was getting anxious – it was starting to get late. The seven of us left Hot Springs at 2:00, still with the goal of reaching Spring Mountain Shelter about 10 miles away. I took the lead.

The trail ascends quickly after crossing the French Broad River through a series of quick switchbacks. The French Broad is a beautiful river, very wide and peaceful. I walked out onto a rock slab to take one final picture of the river. I just happened to glance down at the shore and saw a very tiny Canuck and Shaggy waving their arms up at me. I couldn’t tell what they were saying.

Setting up camp on the French Broad.

I made my way a back down the AT to see what was going on. By that time, the group had reassembled. The idea was very similar to what happened at the Fontana Hilton – an extra day off to rest and relax by the river.

I wanted to move on, but did not want to make camp 10 miles away in the dark. And it really was a lovely campsite. I gave in and immediately set up my tent mere feet from the river bank. I laid out my mattress pad and sleeping bag and relaxed by the river.

I told myself that, if I was going to take this second zero day, I was going to put it to good use. I’ve been keeping photo notes in this little waterproof notepad that was given to me before I left (yet another awesome present that I end up using much more than I imagined).

It took some time, but I was able to delete a lot from my camera and write down where each picture was taken in the notepad – now an accurate photo diary of sorts.

At around 6:00, Moon Boots and Medicine Man hiked into town for one last dinner. By 7:00, Savage and I decided to make the quick hike back as well.

I left my phone to charge back at camp and went to town for, yes, more wings and cake. We decided to get it to go. After a nice dinner around the campfire, I returned to my tent to check my phone. While it had charged fully, I noticed my external battery was only 60% charged – it must have had a bad connection at the Alpine Court.

This could be a problem in the coming days. My plan was to breeze through Irwin, TN for a quick resupply in four days – similar to how I approached Gatlinburg. With rain, then snow, in the coming forecast, I have the option to tent at Uncle Johnny’s hostel. This would give me the opportunity to utilize the shuttle services to get to a Wal-Mart for a proper resupply AND recharge my external battery. I could even do laundry if needed.

I’ll probably do a similar four more days up trail before taking my next zero in Damascus, VA (in about 10 to 12 days).

Tonight we all expressed the desire to get back on trail first thing tomorrow. We sat around the campfire and ate, discussing life and philosophy before Moon Boots, Clutch and I climbed up to a prominent rock ledge to get a good look at the stars. I saw two satellites – pretty neat y’all.

I’m in my tent a little later than usual tonight, but feeling good about the weeks ahead. I’m looking forward to Virginia – some 200 miles away. Damascus is another famous “trail town”, host to Trail Days – an AT hiker festival that takes place in mid-May.

I’m really hoping to get some better cell coverage soon. When I’m on the trail, I really don’t mind being a little cut off. But when I’m in town, it’s a little hard not to get homesick – for both Atlanta and Seattle.

Breakfast – three pancakes, side of bacon, side of grits, 2 cups of coffee: $6.99 plus $3.00 tip

Lunch – side of waffle fries and a Dr. Pepper: $6.50 plus $3.00 tip.

Dinner – two beef jerky tortilla wraps (with Sriracha), one hotdog (with Sriracha), 6 chicken wings, chocolate cake, one orange.

$12.00 for the wings and cake from the Spring Creek Tavern. I gotta say, this place was the first restaurant I’ve eaten in that truly caters to hikers.

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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