In this new age of AT hiking amongst the virus the classic zero is turned on its head. I only had one zero in the good ole days 3 weeks ago and it was awesome. We hung out at a hostel in Franklin and shared food and played guitar. Ahhhh. Remember back then? Now, it is much more heavy on the logistics (and crappy highway schelping) but it can still be fun.
I slept in late and drank delicious coffee that the hotel brewed. It probably was terrible coffee but if you don’t have to make it yourself in the tent it tastes amazing. I did my laundry and then walked a few miles to Uncle Johnnys Hostel on the AT to retrieve my box. I was super nervous about going because I had heard that the owner was threatening thru hikers on Facebook and got banned from the 2020 AT Facebook page. They were still giving out boxes that had been sent so I came bearing a gift of a tin of fancy feast cat food. When I stopped by the hostel last night on my way in they were closed but I was surrounded by some aggressively friendly cats that were demanding treats.
I approached the door with a soft knock and Drew answered (gotta be cool with a name like that, right?). He couldn’t have been more pleasant and helpful. He immediately got my box, apologized profusely for closing the hostel facilities and told me that I was right to stay on the trail. In fact, he said that if they don’t reopen soon he is going to head out and join us soon. He graciously accepted the cat food and we served his friends the treat on the porch. He even accepted Taco’s dog food for his own dog for when they go hiking.
On my walk back to the hotel I felt a renewed sense of purpose. I felt proud that I’m following my own rules of no shuttles, hostels, shelters, congregating or food sharing. The AT most certainly can be done this way. Sure, it’s more effort but this is a 2,200 mile hike to Maine for crying out loud. A walk to town isn’t going to kill me.
My box was stuffed full of 5 days of healthy outdoor herbivore meals and organic twizzlers! It is an embarrassment of riches and though my pack will be heavy I will be eating like a king on my way into the Roan Highlands. I gave the dog treats away to the friendly front desk clerk at the hotel and then hiked a 2 mile ditch into Erwin for a late lunch/dinner. They were really sweet too and thankful for the business. I did some window shopping at the Dollar General and well – that is about all there is to do in Erwin. I hiked past a nuclear fuel facility and decided it was best not to inquire any further in that one. Uranium mining maybe?
I’m really excited for the next 3 days as I head into the Roan Highlands with all sun and warm temps in the forecast. This is a really special part of The AT and I have a treehouse cabin booked just shy of the 400 mile mark. I’ll share some great pics as I hike it through.