This is my journal entry for April 14. I didn’t have cell service last night; therefore, I could not post. I’ll post today’s entry later this evening, probably after ten.
For the past ten minutes I have written and deleted four opening sentences for today’s journal entry. Nothing seems to want to flow. I’m physically tired, probably more so from cumulative mileage than from the 16.3 miles I hiked today. I think, in fact, that second day off is a bit overdue. So after tomorrow’s hike, I think it will be time to regroup. After all, I can’t continue to do the big mileage days without occasional rest. That settles it. Tuesday will be a zero day.
In many ways today proved to be a carbon copy of yesterday with a couple of exceptions. The trail out of Hot Springs took an immediate right after crossing the French Broad River. For about half a mile the trail ran parallel to the river before heading back up the mountain toward Lovers Leap Rock. I saw no lovers as I passed the outcrop. The trail leveled briefly before becoming a roller coaster for much of the day. None of the climbs were particularly difficult; however, every uphill preceded a downhill with the scenario continuing for many miles. Rarely did I walk on level ground.
Early in the hike I passed a female thru hiker whose name escapes me, but I did remember her little dog Koko. Every time I see a dog on the trail I think of my brother. Shortly after, Buffalo, a young man who was also staying at Elmer’s last night, shot by. Buffalo, from Buffalo, hiked around 1200 miles two years ago before having to leave the trail with an injury. Now he’s back giving a thru hike another try.
At some time in the late morning I came upon the first pond I’ve seen on the hike. I don’t know if there were any fish dwelling there, but just the thought also brought Don to mind. He would not only have been able to tell if there were fish, but he also would have speculated on what breed. Since there was also a bench by the pond, I took a brief rest before moving on up the trail. While sitting on the bench, Rocket and Whiskers passed by. I shared with Rocket, a native of Minnesota, that I was listening to last night’s re-broadcast of “A Prairie Home Companion.” Just like last Sunday, the folks of Lake Wobegon accompanied me up the trail.
With my radio as my only companion, I again hiked alone throughout the day. Twice I took breaks to eat pizza that I had left over from last night. I even brought a coke in my pack today to better enjoy it. As I’ve said before, my philosophy is to always bring along some town food if it’s available. Since I had had a pancake and fresh granola breakfast at Elmer’s, I maintained my calories well throughout the day.
Having seen very few hikers all day, I finally passed some late in the afternoon. One was Bulldog from Dawsonville, GA. Bulldog had a fire going at his stealth campsite. I saw two other hikers tenting alone but didn’t stop to chat. I merely said hello and kept on walking. It seemed like there were more single tent sites today than at any other time since I started. And other than Buffalo, Rocket, and Whiskers, I saw no other hikers that I had seen before.
When I reached Log Cabin Rd., I left the trail to walk about a mile down a gravel road to Hemlock Hollow Inn. Both a cafe and hostel with a quite comfortable bunkhouse, the establishment has become a popular destination for hikers between Hot Springs and Erwin. After registering with Hattie, I walked through the cafe to see Rocket, Whiskers, and Say What, a hiker who had been at the last shelter I stayed at in the Smokies. After settling in and showering, I returned to the cafe for a chef salad and grill cheese sandwich. The last one in the cafe, I sat and chatted for a while with Hattie, who owns the property and business with her husband. She filled me in on the history of the place. I always enjoy talking with the locals.
So even though it’s only 9:00, I think I’ll turn in. Like today, I need to do one more big mileage day in order to take Tuesday off. Even though I’m indoors tonight, I can hear the stream that runs behind the bunkhouse. There’s not a much better sound to go to sleep by after another tiring day on the Appalachian Trail.