Walnut Mountain Shelter to Spring Mountain Shelter – 24.1 miles
Today gets off to an unusual start. In the middle of the night, having only been asleep for about six hours, I wake to four hikers at the picnic table right outside the shelter. This shelter is different than most because it sits especially close to the trail, maybe 20 feet, and the picnic table is nearly on the trail. It is clearly a convenient place to take a break, but the hikers, laughing and talking loudly, are not being courteous to the three hikers sleeping only a few feet away. It was four hikers sleeping, but Rock is already up and packed. It’s 2:45 AM! Why is there so much going on right now?!
They are night hiking so they can get to Hot Springs for breakfast at the diner. I hear that and I say to myself, “Ah, what the heck, I want breakfast at that diner too.” I tell them, “Give me a few minutes to get my stuff together and I’ll join you.” They respond, “Swiper, is that you!?” I had passed them yesterday morning as they were breaking camp. They are excited I’m joining the group to town.
The six of us are now off into the night by 3:20 AM. We stay together for an hour or so, but then start to get spread out. After a couple hours, Young Gun and I are well out in front after a long downhill. At the bottom of the descent, we take off our packs and have a seat while we wait for the others. It’s 6:30 AM and still dark. They show up about 10 minutes later.
After a short discussion, they decide to take a nap, since it’s cold, for about 45 minutes until sunrise. I don’t understand their logic to stop since it’s cool. I don’t want to stop now. I’ve cooled down having waited for them and I’m not going to sleep now, so I continue on by myself and hike as the sun rises.
I enter Hot Springs, NC and follow the AT diamond-shaped emblems embedded in the sidewalk. I follow them right into town. I get to the Smoky Mountain Diner about 8:30 AM. I charge my phone while I order and eat three pancakes topped with cold, mushy strawberries, bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, 24 ounces of milk, and a 12 ounce coffee. I am already starting to feel tired from the short sleep and 14 mile hike to breakfast. The food is not as satisfying as I was hoping, but at least I consumed some calories. I talk to Lindsay for a bit too!
I see Young Gun and the group as I’m leaving. I was sitting with my back to the door, so I hadn’t seen them come in. We go next door to Dollar General to get some candy, Snickers, etc. then to Bluff Mountain Outfitters for my mail drop. At the outfitter, I buy an AT postcard for Ben’s birthday and a Max Patch postcard for Ryder.
I take the package over to Hiker Ridge Ministries’ place to relax in air conditioning while I organize my resupply food. I write messages on the post cards and leave them with the lady at the ministry to mail for me since the post office is closed for lunch. I eat some cookies and snacks and I leave there about noon. Before leaving she takes my picture to document I had stopped by and to put on their Facebook page. I wanted to stop at the homemade ice cream shop, but I can’t eat anymore. I’ve already spent more time in town than I had wanted to anyway.
It is a long, slow afternoon. I ate too much in town and the early start this morning starts to catch up with me. Once I get to camp, set up tent, eat, and get water, I am able to talk with Lindsay and Ryder. He is so cute on the phone. Linds texts me pictures of the boys’ photo shoot. Beckett is so big and RLS too! They have changed so much. I think some awesomeness may have leaked out, again. I miss them like crazy. I have two big days ahead to get to Erwin, TN to meet Debbie and her boys. Hopefully I can do laundry there. This is embarrassing. Night!