Day 39 -April 15 2017- 16.3 miles plus 0.7mi -Hot Springs to Hemlock Hollow Hostel
We got up early so we could get breakfast at the diner and still get out on the trail at a decent time. It was still dark out when we left Elmers and we made our way over to the Smoky mountain diner.
While we were eating more hikers started top trickle in. Zeus came in and we talked to him a little bit before we left. He was recovering from a late night. He had camped across the river from Hot Springs with a bunch of other hikers. Apparently there was some partying going on.
When we left Hot Springs we crossed over the French Broad river and the trail went back into the woods. The trail went upriver for a little bit. Soon we came to the spot where a lot of hikers were camped. Wolfie had camped there and he was about ready to go.
The trail abruptly climbed up the side of a steep cliff. There was a spot called lovers leap that gave us one last view of Hot Springs and the surrounding valley.
We talked about how spots like this tended to have slightly morose names like Lovers Leap. Why couldn’t it be called Lovers Lookout or something more uplifting.
We hiked with Wolfie for a while and learned more about him. He was in his mid twenties and he spoke several languages. He had spent some time in China and had some pretty cool stories to tell.
He asked us how old we were and when we told him he said “What? I thought you guys were around my age!” I was 35 and Stoat was 31 at the time so that made us feel pretty good.
There wasn’t too many views during the hike but that didn’t mean there wasn’t any mountains. We had over 4600 feet of elevation change over 16.3 miles
Somewhere along the way Wolfie got ahead of us. He had mentioned that he was going to stay at Hemlock Hollow Hostel. We were still on the fence about staying there.
Towards the end of the day we passed a building next to the route 70 road crossing. There was a spray painted sign that simply said “MOMS”.
It looked abandoned so we decided to keep going. Once we crossed the street we saw Drop Top and Bear Bait. They were lounging on the side of the road waiting to be picked up by one of Bear Baits friends. While we were talking to them two hikers emerged from MOMS. When they got to us they said the store was open and there were all kinds of snacks inside. That’s all we needed to hear.
The inside of MOMS didn’t look any better than the outside but it didn’t matter. Along with 8 track payers, bowling trophies, and miscellaneous furniture that looked like it had been stored there for a long time, there were several freezers with ice cream, a refrigerator with cold soda, shelves of snacks, and some microwavable food available for purchase.
We talked to the owner for a bit. He answered our questions while sipping a beer. His mom had run the snack store because she had a soft spot for thru hikers. He kept the place open in memory of her. He would hang out there during the day and run a bar he owned in town at night. He was a nice guy and I was glad we stopped in there.
About a mile and a half later we got to the road that led to the hostel. We had been looking for suitable stealth camping spots but hadn’t had much luck. So we decided to walk the extra 0.7 miles down the road to the hostel.
Along the way we passed a fenced in property that had confederate flags and lots of dogs. As we passed a lot of the dogs started barking angrily at us. There was a sign that said, “Please do not pet the dogs.” That wasn’t a problem.
Near the hostel were a few farms. The smell of farm country was something new on the trip. I had always associated the smell of farms with peaceful places and this was no exception.
Hemlock Hollow Hostel was very nice. It had several buildings and all of them were located near a stream that passed through the property. The main building had a small store and a large wraparound porch that was nice to hang out on. Dianna at the front counter was very nice. She and her husband had bought the property a few years ago as a business to supplement their income. She ran the place while her husband worked a full time job back in Florida.
Wolfie was on the porch doing some things on his phone. We said hello and left him to do his thing.
There were several cabins available as well as bunks in the bunkhouse. We opted for the bunks. The bunkhouse was nice and clean and we wound up being the only hikers staying there. It had a front porch that faced the stream and had lines to hang our clothes on.
After getting settled in we soaked our legs in the cold water of the stream.
The hostel had a bathhouse that consisted of three shower rooms with separate entrances. While Stoat was in the shower he heard someone enter the shower room next door. A minute or two later the person in the other shower started talking to him. It was the owner Dianna. It was just a normal conversation but the setting threw Stoat off a little bit at first. I guess talking to strangers while in the shower wasn’t something he was expecting on the AT. When in Rome…