Updated: Nov 13, 2020
Appalachian Trail Section Hike - 24.6 miles
North Carolina & Tennessee: Sam’s Gap, NC to Nolichucky River, TN
11 September to 13 September, 2020
NoBo. Three hikers. Me, Andy, and Katrin
Another great section hike with my hiking buddy, Andy, and my new hiking friend, Katrin. Andy and Katrin are enthusiastic and positive hikers, allowing any challenge to be overcome with their great spirit.
We met Friday at Uncle Johnny’s Hostel, next to the Nolichucky River just south of Erwin, TN. Uncle Johnny’s is a famous stop along the Appalachian Trail. Uncle Johnny passed away in 2018, and the place is now run by his wife, Charlotte.
We camped in the lawn area of the hostel Friday evening, and enjoyed a beer courtesy of Katrin. She brought me a dark stout beer, as recommended by Andy. Very nice!
As scheduled, Charlotte gave us a shuttle ride to Sam’s Gap, just across the border back into NC, early Saturday morning, and off we went on our hike.
This is a rewarding hike. There are plenty of views along the way, and the elevation changes, though strenuous at some points, are not overly challenging. However, the first 6.5 miles of the hike, to Bald Mtn, included the majority of our ascent for the entire 24.6 mile hike, so it was a natural place to stop for launch. And the views weren’t bad either!
Beyond Bald Mtn the terrain was more up and down. A steady rain hit us around 3pm and continued for an hour. As the rain subsided, coupled with somewhat rocky terrain, we all began to tire. Also, Katrin's feet were hurting due to her new boots.
Our plan had been to hike just beyond 14 miles where a reliable water source was listed on the Guthook App. Around 5pm we decided we were going to stop early. One problem. There were no reliable water sources between the 11-mile and 14-mile point, and no good campsites to be found.
We did finally locate a source, which took some effort to extract enough water. By this time it was just after 6pm and the rain was once again coming down. We finally found a suitable campsite at 13.4 miles into our hike.
We were forced to set up tents in the driving rain. By 7:30 PM I realized the rain was not going to stop, and cooked my food inside my vestibule. Close to 9 PM, still raining, I went to sleep for the evening.
The next day was a gorgeous hike, also with some nice views. It was a total of 11.2 miles, and nothing extraordinary to report. Mostly downhill and slightly rocky, as is typical of the AT in North Carolina and Tennessee.
Some Learning Points
With a 24.6 mile hike over two days, I felt pressured to get at least 14 to 15 miles done on Saturday. I still have to work for a living, so getting home late Sunday does not set me up well for the coming week.
I should have watered up earlier. Doing so would have given me more flexibility in campsite selection. Instead, I was forced to keep going as I was concerned about having enough water at the campsite. And a member of our team was struggling a bit with blisters.
What We Did Well
Experience matters. As I joked with Katrin the evening prior, even with an almost zero percent chance of rain forecast for the next day, she was hiking with a person who always gets rained on. On this trip my “luck” did not disappoint.
Having been through this many times, I’ve learned a few tricks. One is to own a ground cover with grommets. I was able to erect my tent poles and rain fly over my ground cover, throw my pack underneath, and then take my time erecting the main body of my tent. The inside of my tent remained nearly bone dry, even though I was forced to set up during a driving rain storm.
The best thing we did; used team work to set up all of our tents, working together to prevent as much water as possible from getting inside Andy and Katrin's tent.
In summary, this was a fun hike and with great scenery. Though it is appropriate to mention some lessons learned, there were way more high points than challenges during this hike. Even at our most tired points during heavy rain, there was laughter and enjoyment. We completed this hike with a feeling of accomplishment and the satisfaction of enjoying nature.
About The Author
My name is Jerry. In addition to running a hiking club, I also own and operate a coffee shop & bookstore. Check it out here.