Day 35: May 19, 2022 Whistling Gap to Uncle Johnny’s Elevation Profile +2446/-4591 13.4 Miles; Total 344.2 Miles

We had a little visitor last night. No, it wasn’t a bear but very loud thunder and lightning storms with a smidgen of rain. Before we turned in, Blue said she heard thunder. No way, it was just a jet. Well, she was spot on. Whistling Gap was the hub of activity last night. We had close to ten tents and some of them didn’t arrive until dark. I was sleeping by then but when I woke up, there they were. Tent City in our backyard.

Tent City – Many on top of One Another

I was up at my normal time but Blue was a bit behind schedule. I think the heat from yesterday took a toll on her too. I slipped out and took a little detour up Spy Rock. It was approximately 1/2 mile from camp and off of a spur trail. Being I had a little extra time to burn, before Blue caught up, I took in the sight. I dropped my pack at the base of the route, and made the arduous climb up rocks chiseled into steps. At the top was a slot rock that you squeeze through and it opens up to this gorgeous sandstone outcropping. The view was grand and the clouds added sone dimension to it. The best part was this Rhododendron in bloom. Evidently it has the constant sun rays that helps it bloom early. It was stunning!

Spy Rock Overlook

I retrieved my pack as no one in their right mind would steal it. We all have our own burdens to carry and they sure don’t want mine! I headed down the trail and stopped at a meadow. I haven’t seen many meadows on this trail so it seemed like a great place to wait for Blue. The only issue was as I went to put my sit pad down, there was poison ivy everywhere. No wonder no one was hanging out. Blue showed up and we were back to our dynamic duo.

Lovely Meadow lined with Poison Ivy

Today was a fairly simple hike. We were headed into Johnny’s Hostel in Erwin, Tennessee to resupply. We stopped for a break and filled up on water when a Sobo (southbound) hiker stopped. I never got his name because he talked so much and had so much intel to share, I could never get a word in inch-wise. He shared with us all the highlights of the trail, where there was water and where there was not. He had our next 200 miles planned out! The most important information that he shared with us was regarding the best breakfast on the trail. It was coming up and cannot be missed, Mountain Harbor B&B. I will rearrange our plans to make sure we get a good breakfast! It’s been nothing but Protein Coffee and Biscotti for the past month. With one exception; our fine breakfast we had back at Fontana Dam! But that was a long, long time ago. I’m ready for some applewood smoked bacon. That’s what I’m talking about and guess what? The guy that runs the B&B makes his own smoked bacon.

Overlooking Erwin Tennessee

We were finally able to breakaway from our new friend. The trail was diverse today. Sometimes we were walking in a canopy of trees and then we’d come around a corner that was dry and rocky. It was quite interesting. The part that wasn’t interesting is the fact that it’s humid here! I think part of my dehydration is due to the fact that I’m sweating like a pig. I had to take my long sleeve shirt off and wear my tank top. I’d never, never ever do that on the West Coast. The sun is too intense and I’d burn like a lobster. Here, that’s not an issue. The trail for the most part is covered in trees. No sunburn but boy oh boy, it’s just hot and muggy. I need a change of wardrobe, that’s for sure!

Me and My Newest Wardrobe

This afternoon I made it to Johnny’s Infamous Hostel. It’s a quirky place right on trail with everything a hiker would need. Blue and I checked-in, were given a towel and told where we could pitch our tent for the evening. The private rooms were taken and we already experienced firsthand staying in a Bunkhouse. One and done. We both would rather sleep in our tents. Thank you very much.

Tenting in Johnny’s Backyard

We had a shower, did our laundry and took the hiker shuttle to the grocery store. If it was up to me, the Shuttle Van would’ve been red tagged for safety. It made more rattles and clunks than anything I’ve ever ridden in. Even the Dingo-ball, goat carrying Bus in Nepal was safer! But we did arrive in one piece and returned back to our humble abode. And believe it or not, I’m planning to ride it again tomorrow. I know, wreck-less abandonment.

The Hostel Shuttle

Hiker Hostel living is something everyone should experience, at least once in their life. It’s quite a thing with shared spaces, hammocks strung around, tents on top of tents and people wearing borrowed clothes while they do laundry. No one even tries to look their best. You just dig through a pile of clothes and hope to find something that fits. This allows you to wash your one outfit and long johns. It’s humbling, to say the least, and quite interesting to see the style or lack of it, walking around town.

Johnny’s Hostel in Erwin, Tennessee

Another funky day on the trail. I understand that this might not be everyone’s idea of vacationing, or for that matter, fun times at Ridgemont High. But for me, it’s a place where I can be me. No makeup, no fancy clothes, no deodorant (I know) and only one outfit. It reminds me of Jesus when he walked from village to village asking others to join him. They would drop everything and go with the clothes on their back and nothing else. There’s a freedom, a sense of purpose, that you find when you have such little possessions. Right now this is my home on the trail, and I am quite content with that. And…the best part, there’s always room for one more.

25 Many people were traveling with Jesus. He said to them, 26 “If you come to me but will not leave your family, you cannot be my follower. You must love me more than your father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters—even more than your own life! Luke 14:25-26 NIV

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