After a month of hiking, I finally earn my trail name, Crazy Horse, as I hike the Appalachian Trail through Tennessee!
My latest video is here! The video chronicles my adventures through the snow during weeks 3 and 4 on my hike.
The Mountain Harbour B&B was not lying when they said they have the best breakfast on the AT. I woke up and headed up to the main house for an all-you-can-eat (AYCE) homemade breakfast. The owners, a friendly couple, served up blueberry pancakes, eggs and cheese, biscuits and gravy, sausage and Canadian bacon, tomato with basil, potatoes, lemon turnovers, cookies, fresh fruit, and more! As I said, everything was made from scratch! Well worth the $12.
I ate with my hiking companion from the previous day, Jon, as well as Glyph (as in hieroglyphics) and Sticks. The latter two both happen to be from the U.K. but didn’t know each other before the AT. Glyph is woman in her fifties and skinny as a beanpole. Sticks is British bloke in his 30s with long blond hair in a ponytail. We all ate as much as we could before leaving the best hostel I will probably ever stay at. There was also an adorable dog that came up to me and didn’t want me to go. I always seem to find dogs wherever I go (not complaining)!
Jon and I set off on the trail and Sticks joined us. It was nice to have conversation with other people and not just with the voices in my head. The weather was extremely nice with a high of 64.
About an hour on the trail, I said to Sticks that even after that breakfast I was starting to feel hungry again. I remarked that “I’m like a horse and you could strap a feedbag to me so I could eat while I hike.” Sticks picked up on this horse comment and one thing led to another and he decided to call me Crazy Horse. Thus, after a month on the trail I earned my trail name and shall forever be known on the AT as Crazy Horse.
As we hiked along, we reached a blue blaze trail in short time. On the AT, the trail is marked with white blazes painted on trees every so often. Blue blazes indicate side trails to shelters or some other feature. This trail had a sign for Jones Falls. Other hikers had written reviews in permanent marker on the sign such as “worth it” and “just go!” We followed their advice as it was only 0.1 miles out of the way and were not disappointed. Jones Falls was a tall waterfall cascading over rocks. Very pretty.
A little farther on we were all getting a little tired of the heat. We weren’t used to this balmy 60 degree weather! As we walked along the side of a river, a day hiker who self-described himself as a hillbilly chatted us up. As he asked our names, I used my newly given trail name for the first time. When Jon gave his real name and revealed he has no trail name, the hillbilly immediately quipped “Jon the Baptist.” Sticks and I were amused by this and vowed to make it Jon’s trail name.
The hike was fairly easy today but my knee was starting to ache and pain a bit. It wasn’t anything sharp but enough for me to take notice. I realized I have been pushing miles ever since I tweaked it several days ago. Today would be my third 20+ mile day in a row! Sticks and Jon convinced me to consider taking a zero day soon. Good thing Lindsey is coming tomorrow to pick me up for a trip to Asheville. Maybe I’ll stay a bit longer than one night.
Though the terrain was easy, it was also tedious. We wound back and forth seemingly in circles going up and down and all around with no rhyme or reason. There were no views, just forest jungle. It became monotonous in the heat. By the last two miles we were all ready to be done.
At last we made it to a nice grassy clearing where we pitched our tents. Glyph was already there with two other hikers, Gandalf and Mumbles. Gandalf was an American around my age while Mumbles was also from the U.K. and in his early 20s. Mumbles carried around a giant U.K. flag and was having all the hikers he met along the way sign it. I obliged. Apparently he had been at the same hostel a Neels Gap back on my Day 3. So the three Americans and three Brits all had dinner and built a fire. My hips and knees were sore from the long day. I’m going to have to slow up a bit for the sake of my knee. After all, I’ve still got a long way to go!
Day’s Mileage: 20.6
Total Miles Hiked: 424.2
Remaining Miles: 1,775.5
I was all packed up before 8am. It was going to be a hot day with a high of 73. Jon the Baptist and I set off on the trail. Sticks, Mumbles, and Gandalf hung back; they were planning an easy day and weren’t ready to leave yet. Glyph had packed up and left while we were all still asleep.
It was nice to have a hiking partner again. The terrain was easy and mostly flat. Soon into our hike we arrived at Laurel Fork Falls. We were told that this was the tallest waterfall on the Appalachian Trail but I wasn’t able to verify that claim. It didn’t seem that tall but was still a beautiful spot. I could have stayed for an hour relaxing in the cool mist and taking in the sunshine.
A little farther on we reached a spur trail that led one mile to Hampton, TN. Jon the Baptist needed to go into town to resupply and also there was a Subway. I hesitated, wanting to push more miles but also mindful of my knee pain and hunger for real food. I caved and headed towards town. We stashed our packs in the woods on the spur trail so we could walk unobstructed to Subway.
Unfortunately, once we reached the road to town, we had another mile or so to walk to Subway. The sandwich was still worth it and we stopped at the Dollar General for some snacks and such. It was supposed to rain but the sun was still out. I should have put on sunscreen. By the time we got back to our packs and on the trail again, we probably logged 4+ bonus miles from our Hampton/Subway detour. So much for taking it easy on my knee!
Lindsey was coming up from Asheville to pick me up later that afternoon. Our prearranged meeting spot was six miles away along the trail but only two as the crow flies. Jon the Baptist and I were extremely hot and sweaty at this point as the trail climbed over 2,000 feet in elevation to the top of a ridge only to drop right back down. This pointless climb could have easily been avoided if we just skirted around the hillside but of course the trail blazers had decided to take us up and over a ridge just for kicks.
Finally we reached Watauga Lake where we found Lindsey relaxing on the beach. She had so generously brought us cold sodas and donuts! (This girl is a saint!) After enjoying the view for a bit, Jon the Baptist bid us farewell and set off on the trail. Perhaps I would meet up with him again in Damascus, VA in a few days.
Lindsey and I set off for Asheville, NC, listening to Dolly Parton the whole way. My knee was still sore so I suggested taking a zero day (zero miles/day off) the following day instead of returning to the trail. Lindsey agreed and so we enjoyed a dinner of salad, bean dip, and pizza with Easter candy for dessert. Despite having done laundry only two nights prior, my sweaty, salty clothes were ready for another go-around.
Day’s Mileage: 12.7 (+4 bonus miles)
Total Miles Hiked: 436.9
Remaining Miles: 1,762.8
I had a lazy morning whilst Lindsey went for a ten-mile run. It’s funny…I’ll hike 20 miles a day, three days in a row, and yet running even one mile sounds horrible.
Upon her return, Lindsey and I headed for REI where I fitted my new Osprey backpack that had been mailed to Lindsey’s and returned my old Gregory pack. I also exchanged my damaged compression dry sack for a new one. Afterwards we headed to CVS and I found a nice compression sleeve for my knee that hopefully will help avoid any future knee pain. So far so good. A quick trip to the grocery store and I was all set for another week on the trail. Virginia here I come!
But first, I dropped Lindsey off at work at Pack’s Tavern. An hour later I returned for dinner. I had a great burger with Brussels sprouts as my side; I’m trying to be somewhat healthy when possible. Of course I washed it all down with copious amounts of Dr. Pepper. My server was impeccable (Lindsey, obviously) and introduced me to the general manager, Terry. We talked about my hike for a bit and later I come to find he so generously bought my dinner. It was indeed a Good Friday!
After dinner I walked over to a local gay bar for a beer and was mistaken for someone’s Tinder date. Though I was having great conversation with the guy, Lindsey showed up after work to take me home. Though I didn’t want to leave just yet, she reminded me that we had to get up at 7am to take my ass back to the trail! Another time, Asheville!
Day’s Mileage: 0.0
Total Miles Hiked: 436.9
Remaining Miles: 1,762.8
Lindsey drove me back to the trail at Watauga Lake. Per our tradition, we bought a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts of which I ate seven or eight. It was a heartfelt goodbye since we probably won’t be seeing each other for quite some time now; I’m getting too far north of Asheville for her to come pick me up for zero days.
The weather was sunny and in the 50s which felt rather hot whilst hiking. The trail led me around the lake which was so pretty in the sun. I crossed the Watauga Dam and hiked up on a ridge which I followed the entire day. The terrain was overall very easy.
I saw few people on the trail. I did run into two southbound hikers who had found a dog. He was a beautiful blue heeler and had a collar and leash but no tag. They offered him to me and it was so tempting to adopt this pup right then and there. Sadly I declined and they planned to drop him off at a hostel in town to see if they can find the owner.
A bit later I was pleasantly surprised to run into Gazelle! She was out hiking with her girlfriend who was in town. Gazelle told me that Nomad, Transformer, and Willow are ahead of us and she’ll meet them in Damascus, VA for a zero day in a day or two. It was nice to catch up but I quickly outpaced them and was alone again.
I stopped for lunch at a shelter with a beautiful overlook. Then I hiked on, not really sure how far I’d go. There was a shelter I planned to stay at but when I arrived, it felt too early in the afternoon to stop though I knew the next shelter was too far. I continued on, all the while listening to Dolly Parton. These were my last days in Tennessee so it seemed appropriate; I’d likely cross into Virginia in the morrow or the next.
Near the end of my day the trail passed through some private farm fields. It was a nice change of scenery. When I reentered the woods, I found a place to pitch my tent before dark and finally got around to eating that can of beans I picked up many days ago; I can’t believe I carried that extra pound of weight for so long!
Alone in the woods, I reflected on the last month and how much has happened. I’m grateful for my generous friends who have helped me so much on the trail. So far my new Osprey pack is good and my knee is holding up, though I shouldn’t have gone as far as I did today; I was supposed to take it easy. Lastly, I passed the 440 mile mark, thus I’ve hiked over 20% of the trail!
Day’s Mileage: 21.5
Total Miles Hiked: 458.4
Remaining Miles: 1,741.3
Daily Average: 14.3
One of my favorite songs by Dolly Parton, it’s only appropriate to put it on repeat whenever I’m in Tennessee.