My stay at Nature’s Inn was….cold! I arrived in the morning, and spent most of the day sitting in the sun. The wind was still blowing, so it added a chill to an otherwise beautiful day. The hostel has only been open for a couple of years, and the owners are still in the process of building up the place. The grounds were beautiful, with many rock/gravel walkways. There were two bunk houses, and also cabins for rent. The bathhouse was a hiker’s dream, they were clean, with plenty of hot water, a bench in the large shower stall, shampoo and conditioner, lotions, blowdryer and scrubs to wear while you are washing your clothes.
There was a main ‘hiker hangout’ where hikers could buy sodas, snacks and resupply. There was also a large screen T.V. and sofa, as well as tables to eat at. None of the stuff they were selling had prices. Most hikers are on a budget, and make decisions on how much things cost. My feeling was that when it was all said and done, the prices were too high. My only other issue with the place was that it was cold everywhere. There was a space heater in the bunkroom, and it was not adequate to heat the place. The air in the bunk was so cold, I kept the sleeping quilt over my head, like I do when I sleep in my tent. The hiker hangout had a butane heater, and hikers had pulled up chairs and made a circle around it in an effort to stay warm. We kept holding our hands up to it, in order to get them to thaw out. I’ve no doubt it would have been a totally different experience had I stayed during a warmer season.
While I was there, I had great cell service. I talked to Bud and he suggested picking me up and bringing me home for a week. His reasoning was that it would give the weather a week to warm up some, and also miss some bad weather coming to the area. That sounded very good to me. I missed him a lot in 2016, but for some reason, I have really missed him much more this time around! After the brutally cold night in my tent, and then a cold night at the hostel, this idea sounded very good to me!
I left the hostel with a spring in my step. It was a very cold start to the day, but with the sun shining, it soon warmed up nicely! I even took off my leggings, fleece pullover and long sleeves. I hiked over Big Bald (I’ve always loved the balds and the meadows) and after I passed over it, and got down a ways and out of the wind, I sat on a big rock to have my lunch.
From Sam’s Gap, the first shelter was only about 8 miles away, and I wanted to do more miles than that. The Hostel owner had said there would be stealth camping spots near Spivey Gap, close to a creek, and that was my goal for the day. There were some climbs, but the hike this day was not too hard. I would end up doing 14.3 miles.
When I got to Spivey Gap, there were no stealth spots. The creek was surrounded by Rhodedendrons. It was also a fairly busy road, and I’ve always heard it advised not to camp by a road, especially if you are hiking alone. I looked at Guthook App on my phone, and there was a note by previous hikers that there were some stealth spots about a mile or two up the way. I had a climb to get out of Spivey Gap, and I passed several cascading water sources. At the last one listed, I filtered my water and hiked on till I came to an obvious place where tents had been set up before. It was a fairly open place, with lots of pine trees.
I set up my tent, but I was alone there. When you are not at an official campsite, especially if there is not a water source right at the campsite, you will most likely be alone for the night. I wanted to get all of my chores done and get in my tent before someone passed and saw that I was a woman there all alone. My theory is that someone is much less likely to bother anyone in a tent if they don’t know the size or gender of the person inside the tent. I decided to eat an extra breakfast I had-Homemade granola with powdered milk. That way, I wouldn’t have to cook and emit scents that might attract varmints and bears.
I hung my food bag and got in my tent well before dark. I did not have cell service, so I sent Bud an Inreach message telling him the mile marker of where I was and asking him to pray for me. I didn’t sleep well. I had several bad dreams, one of which caused me to yell out. I did that at Elmer’s when I was rooming with Soup Spot. That’s so embarrassing! She had to wake me up and tell me everything was okay. She made me feel okay about it, telling me she had bad dreams and did the same thing. However, I really did not want to be yelling out while stealth camping in the pitch dark! That’s like telegraphing to all of the mass murderers and bears that I’m there!
The headlamps most hikers use have a bright light setting and a red light setting. We use the red light setting when we don’t want to disturb people in other tents, or people in a bunk house situation. One of my dreams was about someone shining their red headlamp light into the head of my tent through the fabric. Someone was out there in dark woods in the middle of the night and they were by my tent! When I woke up, I saw the red light shining through my tent, and then I woke up realizing it was only a dream. Sheesh! Why couldn’t I have a dream that took place someplace besides where I actually was! The other dream was similar. Someone was reaching their hand into my tent. That’s when I started yelling out (or trying to) and trying to get away from ‘the hand’ until I woke up and realized it was just a dream.
I woke up many times that night, and I also tossed and turned a lot. When I finally woke up, it was 7:30 a.m.! I had been trying to arrange a meeting with one of my friends who was driving up to hike with me, but we had been having problems communicating due to my lack of cell service, and a lag time in the delivery of my emails. Bud was trying to communicate with her, and help us work out the logistics and details. He had sent me an Inreach message telling me that she was going to hike in from Erwin, meet me, and we would hike back to Erwin together. I was frustrated to see that I had slept longer than normal for me. Usually I wake up at 3:00 or 4:00 and lie there until it’s light enough to start packing up.
I started putting things in my backpack. Nature was urgently calling, so I took care of that, and grabbed my food bag that I had hung the night before. My breakfast was Orange Cranberry Pistachio Rice Pudding. It takes a while to rehydrate, so I heated water for that and coffee, and I took down my tent while it was rehydrating.
I quickly ate my breakfast and started hiking to meet Little Bear (Amy), who I met through my blog. She was planning a thru-hike in 2016 and did a thru-hike in 2017. She was a big supporter of my 2016 hike, and even sent me a care package while I was on the trail. I was looking forward to finally meeting her in person!
(To Be Continued…)