Sunday, November 18, 2012

Trail Recap 4 of 27: Hot Springs, NC to Erwin, TN

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.

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