There is a huge weather front coming in, so this is the last good day for hiking for a while. I decided to take advantage of a good weather day and a light pack to knock out a 20 mile section before the rain hits.
We got up at 6am and left the house by 7 to arrive at Spivey Gap at 7:30. It was very wet and drizzly but not too cool, so it was a good morning to start a gentle climb out of the gap. This was the ending point for Karen and me in the early ’90s when we tried to go from Erwin to Hot Springs over Thanksgiving week. It was way too cold, the daylight too short, and snow overnight doomed the trip to end at this spot. My uncle and aunt picked us up at this spot in six inches of snow back then. Today it was just wet and cool.
It was sunny by 9:30 but still cool and the sun never came out more than 15 minutes at a time. Early in the day there was not a cloud in the sky but by 10 it was partly cloudy and remained that way the rest of the day. I came to No Business Knob Shelter shortly after 10. I was hoping this would be my lunch stop, but I got here too soon, so I just had a quick cookie break. The shelter was just as I remembered it, but painted a darker brown than in the ’90s. This was the first AT shelter Karen ever stayed in when it snowed on us.
The trail into Erwin is along a very steep cliff and there are a few good viewpoints on the way down. I timed it so I could hit one just after noon to stop to have lunch. The sun was peeking in and out and the trees had grown up into some of the view, so it was not that great.
At the bottom of the gap at the Nolichucky River is Uncle Johnny’s Hostel. It was not there in the ’80s but has been there since the ’90s and it is a very popular stop. I always stop in for ice cream, and did so this time as well. They also had Shoe Goo which I wanted to pick up to repair the toe on my right shoe that was starting to delaminate. It was the large tube, but since I was slackpacking I did not care much. Just a quick 15 minute stop at Johnny’s this time and I was off again.
I had hiked this section this past June and while the trail goes up the cliff above the river for the next mile, I decided to road walk to the Nolichucky Expeditions Camp just a mile down the road. I think the road walk might have been the official trail in the ’80s but I could be mistaken about that. Anyway, I took it and was glad I did. The walk went through the state park tubing site and was very serene along the river. I need to come back here again some day.
Everyone complains about the long hike up from the river. I thought it was nice and not too steep. It was a bit rocky, but trails next to creeks tend to be like that. There was only one quarter mile section near the top that started switchbacks in a drier and hotter section away from the creek. It went by pretty quickly, but was definitely harder than the trail by the creek.
I came to the shelter over an hour earlier than I was expecting. I did not have a signal, but sent a text to Karen to adjust the pickup time to be earlier and left the phone on to let the text go out whenever I climbed high enough to get a good signal. The text went out in just a few minutes and the time was set – 5:30. I was expecting to take until at least 6pm, possibly 7 or 8 because of all the climbing. But that’s the difference good food and slackpacking make – you definitely make better time.
One of the tasks for today was to switch to the old pack that I used on the AT in 2013 and the PCT in 2016 (a GoLite Quest). It was slightly larger, but a little more comfortable and did not have the same problems that I was having with the current pack (GoLite Jam50). The main problem being the hip belt digging into my back. The Quest was more comfortable, but after 4000 miles of use, the water bottle pockets were all stretched out. The lower pockets was one of the features I missed, but they being so stretched out, the bottles kept falling out – the coffee bottle 3 times in the first hour of hiking before I stopped and just shoved it in the main pack section. The Quest could not come with me on the rest of the trip. Good to find this out on a one day trip, not the rest of the trip.
Since it is supposed to start raining at dark for the next day and a half, tomorrow will be a zero day to do chores, resupply, and drive back to Hot Springs and buy a new pack. I almost bought one as I hiked through there last week, but skipped buying it because I knew Karen would be bringing my Quest. Now I know I have no choice. Off to Hot Springs tomorrow.