|Uncle Johnny's Nolichucky Inn, right on the AT|
Hot Springs to Erwin (approximate end points of this ten-day-hike section) ~91 miles
General Impressions/Theme: Into the heart of 'Bald Country', the NC-TN Balds. This section included Beauty Spot, Big Bald, and two different kind of exposed high-ground hikes along Firescald Knob and Cliff Ridge above the Nolichucky River just south of Erwin. All four of these places will give you exceptional day-hiking experiences.
People: Appalachian Trail Conservancy board member Lenny Bernstein, met on the section that he and his wife Danny maintain, Thru-hikers 'Fire Pit', 'Rambo' and 'Spicotti' and a friend of Rambo whose trail name I didn't get. A couple meetings with section day-hikers the self described 'two Cougars' based in Hot Springs - yes, these were middle aged women on a holiday who met young Rambo and Spicotti in the bar at the Iron Horse and invited them to spend the night in their room (and ?? - Spicotti said no more). Off trail (by 0.2 miles only) I stopped in at the beautiful home of 1998 thru-hikers the Nelsons, who were offering trail magic.
Supply and overnight: The Wal-Mart in Unicoi, just up the road from Erwin. A couple nights at the Ingles in Marshall, NC, on the road to Asheville.
Worst Memory: 'Five Bridges and a log' - the slippery fallen log I had to cross twice (in the rain) on Jones Branch near the Nolichucky River. The AT crosses this big stream six times and inexplicably this was the only crossing without a bridge - it was either an all out ford or try to negotiate this thin mossy log.
Best Day Hike: I have to go with Big Bald - a somewhat obvious choice. The views are 360 degree-panoramic. There's access from the Wolf Laurel Ski Resort that makes it a short hike, but if you can make it, come up from the north, parking at Spivey Gap. That's a 7 mile hike one way and takes you past a vast open forest of ancient, contorted, never-give-up birches on the slopes as you approach.