Miles Today: 19ish
Mile Marker: 324.7 Big Bald (The Cabin!!)
I woke up this morning and got a decent start around 8:30. I was anxious to get going because tomorrow I am finally headed to The Cabin.
The hiking was hot, but it wasn’t too bad. There was a new hostel along the way I decided to stop in and check out. I really just wanted to grab a soda. I ran into Dirty Harry and Nemo, and they told me how awful their stay was last night. I walked down anyway, and the place was a dump. No insulation in the bunk room, he wanted $5 per shower in addition to the $20 a night stay, and was charging $10 for a load of laundry. The bathroom was also a composting privy like you find in the backcountry. It had a door, but no handle to actually shut it. I paid $1.00 for a generic Sam’s Cola and got out of there. Would not recommend Laurel Hostel off of Rector Laurel Road. The first spot I stopped for water ended up being close to half a mile away from the trail. After filling up and getting back on track I felt like I needed a break from my water break.
My plan today was to get to within four miles of my parents’ cabin and then have a short day tomorrow morning. They live about three miles off of the trail from Big Bald. I was going to hop off there and meet Rick and head down to the cabin. I made it to Sam’s gap around 3:45 and was finally in familiar territory. I had hiked there with Mom and Rick several years ago. And by hiked there I mean I went on a “Three Hour Tour” out of Gilligan’s Island. Mom and I debated which direction down the trail her friend had told us to turn to hike up to Big Bald. I said right, she said left. Turns out a left hand turn takes you to the Tennessee border. It was nice to be here on purpose this time. (I’m sorry Mom, I love you.) There was a guy there with mandarin oranges and bottled water. Dirty Harry, Nemo, Bottles, and Pilgrim were all waiting there. After cooling off a bit I started the hike up the hill. From that point forward, it was basically uphill the whole way.
After fighting up the first climb I hit a nice open meadow. I ran into a woman from Asheville who was hiking with her dog. She said they both did the trail back in 2005 and it was one of the best experiences of her life. She had a whole bag of apples and oranges. I took three oranges and sat down and ate two of them immediately. I think the sugar rush from the oranges is what set it off, but I started thinking I could make it to Big Bald today. I kept hiking until I was through my four mile remainder goal. Then I got down to three. With 1.7 miles to go I called Rick and told him I was coming in tonight. I also mentioned there may be some fellow hiker trash at the top of the hill who would love some cold beers and whiskey. We agreed to meet up there at 7:30 and watch the sunset together.
Just after 7:00 I finally summited Big Bald. I let out a yell of excitement when I got there. I rounded the corner and saw Bottles, Jedi, Nemo, and Dirty Harry. They had all been hanging up at the top deciding if they were going to hike on to the shelter a mile away or stay up on the bald. I let them know I had called in a booze run for us, and that settled the debate. They all immediately started setting up their tents. I explained to them how they had been hiking hard all day to get here, but in my mind I had been hiking all month to get here. This is my first major goal for this trip. It all started to settle in that I had hiked from GEORGIA to get here. Pretty incredible feeling.
I called Rick to get my bearings and wandered my way around the bald until I found the direction down to the parking lot. When I had this half baked idea I had forgotten the parking lot was about a half mile away. I walked down without my pack and helped him carry up the cooler. I let everyone back up top know they were lucky I left my pack, because about halfway up I was regretting this choice. Rick came fully prepared with eight beers, a full bottle of Jack, and half a bottle of Beam. We all dug in and watched the sunset together. Everyone pretty much stuck to beer after being so tired, but there was no hesitation when Rick offered for them to take to-go bottles of the Jack. It was a pretty magical end to such an exhausting day.
Mom gets in tomorrow night, and I’ll be spending the next several days off trail relaxing with them. It’s a much needed rest. My body is pretty broken down already. Some good food, great company, and down time should solve what ails me.