I'm back again. Unfortunately, I'm in a library so I have no good way of uploading pictures. Sorry. However, I certainly do have more to report. When last we spoke I was staying in Waynesville with the always wonderful Burt and Carol Smith. They dropped me off again at Waterville School Road at about one o' clock on Easter sunday after a pretty darn good church service and a rather amazing Easter lunch of Cajun shrimp among other things. I will say it was a bit harder leaving Waynesville than Fontana. They fed me entirely too well. Anyway, I think I did about 8 miles that day to stop at Groundhog Creek Shelter. It was a pretty easy day and a nice reintroduction to the trail. Even better, there were quite a few people to share the evening with that night. I found myself once again in company with M&M, Sniper, Yorkie (The Yorkshire Pudding), BeatBox, Blue Bell and Tree, Bocefus, and EZ Doesit. I also made the aquaintance of Willing and Able (a couple), Bag Lady, Thunder, and Dozer. The shelter however, was a piece of crap, the sleeping platform was very short and rather warped. Fortunately, there was lots of good tenting space. We had a good time around the fire that night, we played a couple of mind teasers (my Camp Grier people will be happy to know that I pulled out My World and My Grandmother Likes Coffee but she Doesn't Like Tea, but we never got to Johnny Woops, also Yorkie is another Camp Person so knew all the ones I did too) and we had some good conversation. Among the topics we discussed were the best techniques for doing one's business in the woods. I immediatly expressed my disdain for leaves (I don't care what you say, they DO NOT WORK!) and also mentioned my buddy Will's thoughts on using his hand when he was in NOLS. There was some talk back and forth about this, but I think Yorkie made the most creative suggestion, that of using a live squirrel and its nicely bushy tail. At the very least it would make for an exciting trip to the bathroom. The next day we did about 12 to Walnut Mtn. Shelter which we once again disdained in favor of camping, really the shelter was horrible. That day however, we crossed over Max Patch which offered some pretty good views and quite a bit of wind. We were however, teased by a sign for Trail Magic which was no longer there. The next day I was last out of Camp (I'm pretty slow in the mornings), and I honestly don't remember much about the hike other than eating all of the lunch and snack food I had left when I stopped for my mid-day meal. I made it into Hot Springs by mid-afternoon and got one of the last two beds at Elmer's Hostel which was set up in an old house that reminded me very much of my Grandmother's house in Winnsboro. My room was actually over the garage. I had to climb a ladder through a trap door to get up to it. Very cool. Mostly Hot Springs was a sort of normal stop in town, but I did go over and spend an hour in the actual Hot Spring with Yorkie and Beat Box. It was pretty wonderful, I don't know what else to say about that. Yorkie and I left Hot Springs around 1:30 and did 10 miles to Spring Mtn Shelter. On the way out we came across No Problem set up for the night at a little stealth camping spot by himself. Well, by himself except for the goat that he bought in Hot Springs. I don't know how I forgot to mention this, but yes this guy bought a goat to walk with him on the trail. Awesome. Unfortunately, the goat is gone now, I don't know why I just know it is. Anyway, also on the way we had to walk over a highway overpass and I tried to get an upcoming eighteen wheeler to blow his air horn. He didn't. Jerk. I think from now on I'll just carry a sign that says, "Honk if you love AT hikers." Maybe that will work better. Anyway, about four miles before we got to the shelter it started to rain and blow quite hard, so we suited up and pushed on. By the time we reached the shelter it was more just mist and wind, but whoever put the shelter up faced it directly into the wind. Awesome. This was an unacceptable situation for me, so Yorkie and I rigged up his tent's rainfly and my tent into an almost total wind block for the shelter. Granted all the rope made it a little hard to go in and out, but Yorkie, Sniper (who was also there), and I were very snug and dry. I was very proud. The next morning broke dry, and surprisingly warm. We did about 15 that day to the Jerry Cabin shelter, where a half used bottle of Maple Syrup waited for us (PACK OUT YOUR TRASH!). We were planning on doing about 7 to a shelter and stopping for lunch. Our plans were changed however, when we found a sign directing us to the how of two former hikers, Hercules and Fal (Free at Last), for some outstanding Trail Magic. They served me some delicious Cuban Picadillo and a Banana Split the size of my head. I was quite full (yet somehow about two hours later I found plenty of room to eat my lunch). Unexpectedly, our two hosts also used their Magic to encourage us in our faith, or to find the truth while on the trail if we were lacking. I do not always approve of evangelism of this kind, but I thought it was done very well. They seemed very open minded and concerned rather than over-zealous and scary. I can't really imagine anyone being upset by it. If Hercules and Fal are reading this, thank you for what you are doing. My ankle was bothering me that day which wasn't so much fun when we were crossing this ridgeline that was all rock and almost all two or three steps straight up followed by two or three straight down. I made it to the shelter anyway, and had a colder than anticipated night with Yorkie, Sniper, and Chill Out. Yorkie and I did another 15 or 16 mile day to Hogback Ridge Shelter the next morning. It was a pretty easy walk except for one long up hill section, but I kept thinking I was on the wrong trail because it followed a logging road for so long and was so flat. I didn't know what was going on. That night Yorkie and I thought we were going to have the shelter to ourselves but around 7:00 Dre and Tapper showed up after having put in a 20 some mile day from Little Laurel Shelter. That night passed without much incident. Beat Box showed up unexpectedly around 8:30 the next morning, he had been pushing hard from Hot Springs, and was stopping for water after having camped about 2 miles back. I left first of the three of us and was very unhappy about 4 miles later when I realized I had knocked off my sunglasses when I removed my hat about a mile into the trail. I swore quite loudly. However, things got better when Yorkie returned them to me at lunch. He had seen them sitting in the trail. Before lunch however, I crossed Big Bald which I thought had much better views than Max Patch, and was even windier to boot. There were gusts of probably 50 mph. It was pushing me around. Anyway, the rest of the day passed without much incident, it rained pretty heavily that night and we knocked out the 6 miles to Erwin the next moring. That is where I am currently, staying and Uncle Johnny's Hostel just off the trail. It was pretty great last night, it was snowing a ton outside, but we were roasting in the bunkhouse watching The Fugitive, with a wood stove fire burning in the corner. I may be overstating, although I don't think so, but that combined with the Snickers I was eating was fairly close to heaven. Thats all for this time.
-The Breadless Horseman
PS- To everyone who has been reading and posting thanks so much for your attention. I wait for your comments at least as much as you wait for mine, and if there is anything you want to know that I haven't been telling, let me know and I'll do what I can. To the person who asked about PA I don't really know when I'll be there cause its kind of far down the road, but when I'm getting near I'll try to remember to mention it.