Day 30: Merry Music Making and a Panda

Appalachian Trail: Day #30

Hot Springs, North Carolina: Zero Miles

Total AT Miles: 273.2

??!!!! Mountain Goat found a panda onesie in the hiker box. Of course she had to wear it!

Today begins like yesterday: breakfast followed by hostel work. This morning, we change things up. I whip up omelettes with help from Mountain Goat who makes potato pancakes,  “hashies” as she calls ’em, on the second burner of the hotplate. The real kicker is she is cooking in a full panda onesie. Most would just wear an apron!

After breakfast, I clean the bathrooms and Orion takes care of the rooms. We help Tie load a car full of stuff to go to a garage. Then, with work complete we play. I found a rock climbing harness in the hiker box and, with 50ft of rope purchased from the outfitter, I climb a tree forgetting where I am for quite some time. I climb to the top advancing my rope as I climb and then I swing. I walk out limbs leaping to the next and I hang, upside down of course. I’m a tree guy by trade you see so my behavior is not as abnormal as it would seem. Here’s a link for photo’s of tree climbing and chainsaws: Pittsburgh, Pa: Three Seasons in the Hometown

While I’m climbing the tree, Orion is in a chapel next to the hostel playing the piano. I walk over when I’m good and tired and I sit and listen. He’s fantastic. Seriously. Mountain Goat and Finch join in the merry music making. Mountain Goat plays the piano just as well as Orion. I’m taking aback watching her lose herself in her music.

A man whose name I’ve forgotten (sorry!) hears us playing and joins in on his guitar. To think people pay for shows such as this! When he’s done, Finch barrows the guitar and plays for a while herself losing herself as much as Mountain Goat.

When the music dies we wander into town for dinner at the bar. Dinner turns silly as salad is stuffed into a mouth. I have a photo of the ordeal but am not posting out of kindness… Orion and I split an appetizer. We have spaghetti to be cooked at the hostel. Fun and affordable.

My Shadow posing with the Goat turned Panda.
Add a morning Finch to the mix!
Orion and I helped Tie move a few things. This was hanging in the garage. Y’all know I like bicycles A LOT, right?!
My Shadow and Mountain Goat bought me a bag of coffee they ground themselves in the store. Thank you 🙂
A banner hanging in a store in Hot Springs. I have a soft spot for kind words.
The coffee they gave me! One of the best coffees I’ve ever had.
Orion was told of this piano in the chapel next door to the hostel. He and Mountain Goat spent a while serenading us.
Mama Finch!
And Mountain Goat both sitting in the window of the chapel while we listen to someone strum a guitar.
That someone a strummin’ said guitar.
Mountain Goat taking a photo of Finch and myself.
Finch picks up the guitar and plays some tunes as well.
Mountain Goat and Finch goofing around. Everyone is so musical!
A decoration at the Laughing Heart Hostel in Hot Springs, NC.

Day 29: Soaking in a Hot Springs Zero

Appalachian Trail: Day #29

Hot Springs, North Carolina: Zero Miles

Total AT Miles: 273.7

In a soft squishy bed I wake ready to tackle the day. First order of business? Breakfast! I turn the dial of the two-burner hotplate to high adding a stick of butter to sauté onion and tomato. While they cook, I crack a dozen eggs over the compost bin scrambling them with a bit of milk from the fridge leftover from a  previous days hiker.  When the veg is ready the eggs are added along with a bit of fresh, steamed broccoli donated by Jenga. Then, we feast!

Our next order of business is hostel work. Tie takes me into the first of three bathrooms and demonstrates the cleaning procedure: toilets bleached, scrubbed, and wiped down with paper towels. Wash hands. Shower bleached, scrubbed, and sprayed clean. Sinks washed, floor swept, and all surfaces commonly touched thoroughly bleached as well. No Norovirus here!

While I’m taking care of bathrooms, Orion is cleaning and preparing the rooms for the next visitors. In all, our work takes about 45 minutes before we are free to enjoy the rest of our stay. More than fair I’d say. Thanks Tie!

The highlight of the day is definitely the hot springs for which the town is named. For around $15, Dr. Kool-Aid, Orion, and me, Kodak, soak for an hour in warm, mineral springs. For the highlight it is, you’d think I’d have more to say besides wonderful and relaxing! But that they were. The warm spring water – I wished it were hotter – relieved our bodies of the weeks of tension caused by the lives we carry on our backs.

For dinner we splurge again eating at the towns finest restaurant: Iron Horse Station. The Iron Horse used to be the towns train station and still bears the high ceilings and brick walls. I order fried chicken that comes cooked to perfection. I’m not kidding when I say it’s the best meal I’ve eaten in months. And I’m not just saying that because I’ve been eating ramen and mac ‘n cheese every night!

To top off our already wonderful day, we join friends at their rented house for a bonfire. Someone tosses in a packet of powder that turns the fire blue and green. Beers are pulled from the fridge and a bottle of moonshine fresh from the hills is passed ’round the circle.

Finch and Orion updating their blogs in the Laughing Heart Hostel.
Breakfast of Champions!
A soak in the hot springs in Hot Springs, NC.
Welcome to the hot Spring! One hour of soaking for sore bodies.
A Goat riding Finch’s Shadow.


Walking through the clean cropped grass of the hot springs spa.
Dinner at the Iron Horse with the family.
Licking plates clean! The thru-hiker way.
The Iron Horse Station is a restaurant converted from the old train station.
A fire to finish the night.


Dr. Kool-Aid found a stray cat.

Day 28: Skipping Into Hot Springs, North Carolina

Appalachian Trail: Day #28

Deer Park Mountain Shelter –> Hot Springs, NC: 3.2 miles

Total AT miles: 273.7

A cold morning in the shelter keeps us snuggled, but not for long. Town calls and a famous one at that. We quickly pack our belongings and walk, sometimes run, into town. We satiate our hunger at the local bar where we run into Moonboots and the crew. They’ve been in town a while and filling their bellies before heading out. It is good to see everyone.

Next, we search for lodging. We tried contacting a woman about a cabin but with little reception in the woods were unable. We called when we arrived, but she went hiking! Oh well. Across the street is the Laughing Heart Hostel. We laid in the grass snacking on a bowl of apples and strawberries, generously donated by a local church, while we tried to decide.

The decision was made for us when Solo asked for two work-stay volunteers. He and his friend were heading out of town and his partner, Tie, needed some hands. Orion and I gladly accepted the position. We set up home in the warm and friendly hostel then got busy with chores before relaxing the night away.

Cuddled up on a cold morning in the Deer Park Mountain Shelter before braving the cold to hike into Hot Springs.
Packing up at the shelter.
A frog in a crystal clear mountain stream.
Reflection in the stream.
Hot Springs, here we come!
Mountain Goat skipping down the trail excited by the prospect of “chicken in bag.” Rotisserie chicken.
All we talk about on run into towns is food.


Good ol’ Appalachian Trail marker.
A child’s guide to the Appalachian Trail.
Make sure to take a picture of your family to keep the loneliness at bay!
We made it to Hot Springs!
AT blaze in the side.
The sidewalk is the trail in this town.
A man gives a tour of his tiny house on the outskirts of Hot Springs.


Moonboots sporting his fresh cut.
Clutch sporting a mohawk as well.
And, the guy behind the mohawk trend. Cool Dad bought a pair of clippers. Said he cut more than twenty people’s hair!
Would I like one? Hell no!
My burger at the bar in downtown Hot Springs. SOO good!!
Our packs lining the bench in front of the outfitters with Savage, Canuck, and Shaggy in the background.

Day 12: Zero Day #2

Day #12

Franklin, North Carolina

Zero Day

109.8 Total AT miles

We wake in the grass alongside the highway to the sound of a car entering the parking lot: day hikers. Some of our group rallies and begins breaking camp. Not me. I stay in the warmth of my sleeping bag for as long as I can. I turn over, unzip my tent, and brew a cup of coffee. I’m carrying a GSI Java Drip and a pound of coffee. Everyone has their vice, right?!

Hitch-hiking is SO easy right now and it is not long before we have a ride to the front door of our hotel. Cool Dad booked us a night from somewhere on the trail. So crazy that we have cell service out there.

We are too early to check-in but the woman hooks us up. She lets us eat breakfast! We walk into the dining room to find the rest of our trail family finishing their feast. They pushed hard through the night for some sleep in a bed.

Towns are cool. They’re are a lot of work though. After breakfast it’s time for chores. I shower and get my dirty clothes together. Savage does laundry. We go shopping for our next stretch of food plus a mail drop to Fontana Dam. I mail myself 20lbs of food in two medium-sized flat rate boxes. The food barely fits and my boxes are “lookin a little wonky,” as one of the shuttle drivers would say.

Canucks hammock didn’t arrive. The post office sent it to the wrong town, Charlottesville. He’ll have to wait until Fontana Dam. Bummer dude. That tent your carrying is heavy and I know how much miss sleeping above the ground.

We walk to Walmart for more supplies. I need bear cord and alcohol for my stove. My bear line just wasn’t long enough. 550 paracord will work for now. I’ll replace it when I find some climbing accessory cord.

The pizza place’s shuttle, the cook driving the bosses car, picks us up at Walmart and drops us off with the rest of the family for a huge pizza dinner. Afterword, we head back to the hotel.

The hotel gets little crazy. People are piercing blisters with needles while others whittle away at packs that have exploded across the room. Dice are tossed on beds and  bills change hands. What a day. What a night.

It is so nice making coffee in the vestibule of my tent all cozy in my sleeping bag. What a good start to the day.
Mr. Kool-Aid packing up while Cool Dad and Savage attempt to hitch into town.
Savage hoping for a ride.
Stop! Hey! Over here!
Mr. Kool-Aid and Canuck in the back of a pickuptruck hitching back to the trailhead.
Cool Dad taking a photo for me inside the cab of the tuck. Thanks for the ride dude!
There was space inside, they just wanted to be cool. It is pretty fun.
Shaggy, Moonboots, Bambi, and Savage at the AYCE breakfast of the hotel. We just walked in to see these guys already sitting there. They pushed hard through the night.
My foot after a few days in the woods.
Not too grimy…
Mr. Kool-Aid threading a blister on his foot. Keeping the thread in for the night allows the blister to drain.
Canuck, Cool-Dad, and me walk to walmart for supplies.
Bradford pears in flower along the highway on our walk to Walmart.
Minor barrier: a barbed wire fence stands in our way of stove fuel and bear cord.
Walmart! I haven’t seen one of you in like, two weeks!
Group dinner in the pizza bar. Can’t remember the name, but they shuttle hikers from anywhere in town. Smart move cause we eat a LOT of food.
A lamp on the bar of the pizza place in Franklin.
Shaggy with the pizza man.
Beer goes great after a long days hike.
Hitching back to the hotel with this amazing family. The others jumper in the shuttle.


Bambi piercing a blister on his big toe. Look at all that blister juice!
Cool Dad and Mr. Kool-Aid shooting dice on the bed for dollars.
Mr. Kool-Aid hooked me up with this bag of candy. Thanks dude!
Savage asleep with a death grip on her glasses.