Day 34 (May 10): Had an awesomely easy hike in the morning down to some field crossings.
Grabbed some trail magic (Doritos and Cheetos) near Devils Fork Gap and some farm fresh hard boiled eggs as we headed toward Hiker Paradise Hostel at Rector Laurel Road (mile 309.4) for a mid day break. After a few sodas and snacks we were convinced by the rest of the group (Jonny, Sam, Charlie, Derek, And Ronan) to spend the night and get an earlier, more convenient shuttle toward Trail Days. Setup tents in the yard and got a case of beer before a rain storm passed through. Had pizza for dinner and played some cards before heading to bed.
Day 35 (May 11): Woke to rooster and more thunder in the distance. Caught an early shuttle to Uncle Johnny’s Hostel in Erwin where we would then get a second shuttle toward Damascus. Road bikes to the local store to pick up some beers to drink while we waited. Took our second shuttle to Damascus a little after noon. Had to prop up the drunk, passed out guy in the front passenger seat as we went around curves. Eventually reached Damascus and had to find a place to stay the first night before tent city opened. Following a poster we saw on a telephone pole in town, we stumbled up some hill billies that we trying to sell tent spots in their trailer park. Spotted their blown up meth lab and noped the fuck out of there. We were able to get the last few tent spots at Crazy Larry’s Hostel. Enjoyed a campfire and a laundry basket full of beers and ice with some of the locals into the late hours of the night.
Day 36 (May 12): Woke early and enjoyed some of the best biscuits and gravy I’ve ever had, which were made by the owner, Larry. Headed off to tent city to claim or spot and get our tents setup. Found a great spot with a fire ring just inside the woods.
Soon, more 2016 hikers showed up and setup camp near us. Once we were setup, we headed out to explore the rest of tent city further into the woods.
Enjoyed a free hiker feed for lunch out on by Four Pines Hostel, consisting of hot dogs, hamburgers, and all the fixings. Caught a ride to the super market and stocked up on beer and snacks for the weekend. Our supplies only ended up lasting the night as we enjoyed a campfire with many of the hikers we met so far on the trail. Camp Riff Raff performed a surprising rave conga line through tent city later that night. The local drunks somehow found their way to our campfire and kept us up most of the night. They were still drinking by the fire when we woke the next morning.
Day 37 (May 13): Headed to Mojo’s Coffeehouse for breakfast with Nadine. Had an everything bagel sandwich, pancakes, biscuits and gravy, and a cinnamon roll. Stopped by the retailer stands to enter all the giveaways throughout the weekend.
Nadine won a new 45 liter Deuter backpack, which provided her the trail name of 2Pak!
She planned to switch to the smaller pack to see if she can reduce weight and compress down from her current 65 liter pack.
Pyro showed up to enjoy the festivities with us. Enjoyed another hiker feed by Four Pines Hostel with pulled pork barbeque. The rest of the day consisted of more drinking and partying with the crew. Later that night we went to the drum circle with a giant bonfire. I ended up staying up very late, but smarty put out the fire before going to bed to keep the locals away.
Day 38 (May 14): Had a late start due to the late night, but eventually got up to see if we could win more gear from the retailer giveaways. Spent most of the day exploring the town and drinking. Four Pines Hostel, again, fed all of tent city for lunch with hot dogs and hamburgers. Ran into Thor, who was there with his family for the day. Headed back to camp with a few more cases of beer.
Enjoyed another night around the campfire with the other thru hikers.
Day 39 (May 15): We took our time packing up camp and eventually headed into town to see if we could catch a hitch back to Erwin. We, luckily, got picked up with Pyro by a couple guys heading in the same direction. Booked a cabin at Uncle Johnny’s Hostel for the rest of our group, who never showed up. We were able to fill the cabin with other hikers (Gaya, Pocahontas, Brooklyn, Smokes, Walker, Pyro, and Gasket) traveling back from Trail Days. Resupplied at Walmart and cooked spaghetti dinner for most of the hikers staying at Uncle Johnny’s. Nadine somehow managed to burn the spaghetti but it turned out OK. Watched a movie before passing out early.
Day 40 (May 16): We had booked a shuttle back to the trail near Hiker Paradise Hostel (mile 309.4) at 10:00am, so had some time to relax in the morning. Hiked with Pocahontas and Brooklyn for most of the day.
Had a long, late day of hiking over Bald Mountain to Bald Mountain Shelter (mile 325.3).
Originally wanted to camp on top of the bald, but due to storms pushed to the shelter where Sam, Jonny, and Derek were waiting. Pocahontas fell out of the Shelter loft onto me, which ultimately gave me my trail name, Crash Pad. We called it a night right after eating dinner. Pyro showed up later that night, well after dark.
Day 41 (May 17): Got a very early start for our hike back into Erwin. The trail was still wet and muddy from the rain the night before, which led to Nadine falling twice and me calling once before reaching town. We were covered in mud by the time we crawled out of the woods to Uncle Johnny’s Hostel (mile 342.1).
Brooklyn surprised us with a paid room and a full fridge of beer for Pocahontas and us. That afternoon we gorged ourselves on an extremely oversized and delicious calzone at an italian restaurant and quickly resupplied at Walmart. When we returned to the hostel, Jonny, Sam, Derek, Pyro and Charlie Dog had shown up to help us drink the beer in our fridge.