Friday, April 29, 2016 10:38 pm
Location: TN 91 / Black Bear Hostel (447.3 miles)

A couple things I forgot to mention yesterday about the Black Bear Hostel we're staying at.

While it's nice, and the people are friendly, and they let you run a tab rather than having to pay for everything at the general store immediately, the place is also kind of cheap. The cabin we're staying at has sheets on only two of the four beds, and there are no blankets or pillows (apparently, those are extra). Also, the cabin door does not close; it swings open fully unless secured by a hook on the outside, or a bar on the inside. There being no keys, you can easily lock people out, or in.

Also, yesterday, While I was getting a shower, the power went out, and didn't come back on until sometime after midnight. Supposedly, on this extremely beautiful day, a tree fell on a power line, and took out power to the whole town. This was kind of a problem, as no power means no hot water (I was probably using the last of it), and also no well water pump (so the toilets also stopped working).

Hotels are required to show fire emergency escape routes in each unit. The escape map for our cabin is comically simple: a rectangle with an arrow pointing at the door.

The Most Complicated Emergency Exit Plan Ever
The Most Complicated Emergency Exit Plan Ever

Today, as I mentioned before, we got shuttled 28 miles ahead on the trail, and slackpacked 20 miles back towards the hostel, ending at Watauga Lake, and the end of a 4-mile no-stopping no-camping exclusion zone due to bear activity. (We still did not see any bears.)

Before leaving the hostel, I weighed my (largely empty) pack on the pack scale. It came in at 22 lbs, with 4 liters of water, three cans of soda, snacks, rain gear, and my water filter (not that I expected to get water today anyway). I'm not really looking forward to weighing it tomorrow with all my stuff in.

Shortly south of our start point, the intersection of the trail and TN 91, there was a box of trail magic. Sponsored by the Nelson Chapel Baptist Church, and started by their "Girls in Action" 4-6th grade mission group, a (large, heavy, metal) box is refilled daily with sodas, snacks, first aid supplies, soap, shampoo, boot laces, dryer lint for fire starting, duct tape, and (apparently a hiking necessity?) bibles. (This reminds me: the Overmountain Shelter from a few days ago — the converted barn — had two Gideon bibles stuffed into the box intended to hold the shelter's log; this overfilled the box so much the log was partially exposed to the elements.)

Sassy and I took a soda, but we neglected to sign the register. We'll be there tomorrow, though, so we should be able to do it then.

The rest of the day was largely uneventful. The terrain was easier (slackpacking or no), and we had a great view of Watauga Lake from the Vandeventure Shelter, about halfway into the day.

Watauga Lake from Vandeventer Shelter
Watauga Lake from Vandeventer Shelter

Shortly after there, we ran into Gweem and Pop, two locals who were giving out awesome bags of trail magic. The bags included a hard boiled egg (!!), a clementine, cheese crackers, Jolly Ranchers, and a Slim Jim beef jerky. (Thanks again!)

The final bit of trail today wound around the lake, going in and out of coves in a way reminiscent of false summits. Eventually, we made it to the lake's public beach, where we waited for pick-up by the hostel shuttle (and watched a dog poop in the water).

Apparently, the usual shuttle driver was unavailable, and as a result, they weren't running the afternoon town shuttles they normally did because they had to pick us up. Our shuttle driver (another hiker who was on a several week work-for-stay arrangement) was still kind enough to "accidentally" miss the turn back, allowing us to swing by the liquor store and Subway on the way back to the hostel.

Evening was filled with more food from the hostel's camp store and chat with fellow hikers, including Scooter and her group, whom had arrived earlier in the day and whom I hadn't seen since Fontana Village.

Tomorrow: on account of proximity, and lack of good locations for water or camping, a 20 mile push to Damascus, VA.

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