Day 16

Hogback Mountain Shelter to Mountain Inn & Suites, Erwin, TN – 26.5 miles  

Cowboy camping is fantastic. The moon was so bright! I woke at about 3 AM and had a difficult timing going back to sleep with the bright full moon overhead. I eventually fell back asleep for about an hour before my 5:30 AM alarm. 

I take my time getting my stuff together since it is only 2.4 miles to the gap for breakfast trail magic, which doesn’t start until 8:30 AM. I soon pass the fellas, who hiked on last night after dinner, in their five sleeping bags beside the trail. 

I get to the trail magic location early. I talk to Linds while the guy makes breakfast. He is an older guy from Towson, MD and retired to Asheville, NC. He’s cooking hash browns and scrambled eggs. He serves me a full plate, covered in ketchup, with a huge homemade muffin and a root beer. It is so much food I don’t even consider seconds. It tastes great. As good as it was, it certainly doesn’t help my hiking the next four hours. I am stuffed. By early afternoon, I am starting to move better and more quickly. 

By about 4 PM, I can see Erwin, TN off in the distance, miles away. It looks so far away and that’s where I need to finish today. There is one last late afternoon climb, about 5 PM, before starting the descent into town. The view of Erwin is a tease for two hours, never seeming to get closer. The descent has many switchbacks. 

I finally get to the hostel about 6:30 PM to get my mail drop. It’s a neat little shack of a place. The little store has so much gear in such a small space. I buy Gatorade, a big muffin, two 40 cent Snickers bars (hiker special), and Fritos. I am wiped. I ask if I can get a shuttle to the Mountain Inn, where I am meeting Debbie. The guy asks for two bucks to take me the 1.1 miles down the road. Deal.

I check the front desk to see if Debbie has checked in yet. She hasn’t. I drop my pack and have a seat in the lobby/dining area. I check the hiker box and get some toilet paper and powdered drink mix. The lady at front desk is very nice. It seems like I am here only a few minutes, when Debbie calls the front desk and I hear the lady say, “Yes he just got here…” She is caught in traffic and won’t be at the hotel until maybe 10:30 PM or later, so the kind woman checks me in, even though she said she doesn’t normally do that without the person who charged the room. 

I shower, order pizza and garlic knots, and do laundry. It is very nice to take a hot shower and have clean clothes. I FaceTime with Linds and Ryder while I eat and Ryder goes to bed. I thought I was going to eat the whole pizza, but it is almost 8 o’clock before I eat, after showering and laundry, so I think my appetite decreased a bit. But I also eat the large serving of garlic knots. I say goodnight to Ryder and we end FaceTime. After a bit, Linds and I FaceTime again while I am organizing my gear and mail drop contents. 

In the package, my love surprises me with a love note, two mini bottles of Bailey’s and two Cadbury eggs. Awesome! I am also sorting out all the stuff I can send home with Debbie. She is also bringing some necessities too. It is so good to see and speak with Linds for a while. 

Debbie and the boys arrive after 10 PM and we talk for a bit until finally going to bed about midnight.

   Hiking to breakfast

  Trail angel cooking up breakfast

  Almost too much

  Big Bald, NC-TN. Elevation 5,515′. Mile 323.9. 

  Beautiful view from this bald



  Descending into Erwin, TN

  Dinner: garlic knots and large supreme pizza


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