Saturday, September 24, 2016
Start: Hot Springs, NC
End: Log Cabin Dr/Hemlock Hollow hostel
Miles: 16.3 (+0.4 for side trail to fire tower, +0.7 for road walk to hostel) (best guestimate – 3500-4000 ft of elevation gain)
Last night, my flights from Bradley went fairly smoothly. Both of them were delayed but it ended up that I was only ~20 minutes later to Asheville than anticipated. My shuttle had trouble finding the hostel once we got to Hot Springs. After wandering around for a bit, we managed to find it by around 10:30pm. I settled my bill with the hostel before going to bed so I could head out as early as I wanted.
This morning, I was up at 6:30am and out by 7. I stopped by the Smoky Mountain Diner for breakfast before I headed out of town around 8am. The diner gave me a LOT of food, though down south it seems like vegetarians are a foreign concept. Their idea of a “sauté veggie skillet” involved bitter green peppers, onions, canned mushrooms, potatoes, and a lot of cheese. I also had a fresh hot cinnamon bun and sweet tea both of which were amazing. I made a semi intelligent choice and stopped eating when I thought I was getting towards uncomfortably full. It was a good call to stop when I did but I should have planned on eating even less since I had to climb more than 1,000′ out of Hot Springs (1326′). I nearly puked on trail but managed to keep everything where it should be.
I climbed up Lovers Leap (1686′), an unnamed mountain (~2400′), Rich Mountain (3532′), and Spring Mountain (3538′). There were a few large elevation changes but also a lot of smaller ones throughout the day. It was a rough day on the body, particularly because of elevation gain and water being hard to come by. A lot of sources that are marked as steady were bone dry. I encountered water sources with enough to filter only twice. One of those sources was highly sulfuric and therefore difficult to keep down. Unfortunately, the hostel’s water has both iron and sulfur; it’s making it hard for me to stay hydrated because it tastes nasty. Had I realized the well water was like that, I might have tried filtering the water out of the creek on the property earlier to see if it’s any better.
Halfway through my day, I took a break for about a hour at Rich Mountain’s fire tower. It was sunny and breezy; it was nice to relax. Over the course of my day, I saw 3 day hikers, 4 weekend hikers, and 2 SOBOs.
I made it to Hemlock Hollow by around 4:45pm. They had basic resupply and some dinner things for sale. But they didn’t have any fuel canisters. I nearly cried and swore a lot and looked despondent. The lady who works here said they’d been trying to get them for a while but the distributor the old owners used wouldn’t deliver to the new owners. She then went and called around the local stores and found one 40 minutes away that sold Coleman canisters. She offered to, and then did, go to the store and buy a bunch of fuel canisters and sold me one at price. It really made my night; I’d started planning what I could do if I couldn’t get a stove tonight and it was stressful. It involved some shenanigans tomorrow to get to another hostel that had fuel, or buy potatoes here and eat those for 2 dinners until I get to another hostel that sells fuel. I’m so glad I didn’t have to deal with that.
Tomorrow, I’ll have another two big climbs: one first thing in the morning, the second at the end of my day. A slackpacker here at the hostel said the water sources are poor, with only two flowing that he saw. So I’m going to load up on the nasty water here and hope for the best. I’ll be back on the trail by 7:15am tomorrow morning and hiking slowly towards easier trail.