The Final Leg

This morning I am embarking on the last 69.1 miles of my trip. This section from Erwin, TN to Hot Springs, NC should take three and a half days. I’ll be staying at Laughing Heart Hostel Tuesday evening, where I am hoping to have more conversation with “Solo” who is one of the caretakers.

When Jelly and I finished up our section earlier this year, it was Solo who first greeted us at Hot Springs. Initially, I wasn’t sure the guy was “all there.” He was carving a wooden owl on the porch, and spoke painfully slowly. That was only until we happened upon the correct subject, however.

Jelly and I were waiting on our laundry, and Solo proceeded to tell us about his most recent trip to the arctic circle, where he has been studying indigenous populations for years. As it turns out, he is a cultural anthropologist. He disappeared for a moment and came back with an adze that his uncle had crafted for him. The handle is a caribou antler, which Solo had found during his travels.

In further conversation I learned that Steve, from the Hiker Hut in Rangely, ME, often stays at Laughing Heart for a few weeks before he heads to India each year. Steve was the one who attempted to change my trail name to “Buddha Boy.” I’m hoping to run into both of these characters again.

Throughout the southern leg of this trip, I have been considering a thru hike of the Benton Mackaye Trail, which also ends at Springer Mountain. This is a 288 mile trail, which very well represents the Appalachian Trail of forty years ago. Far less people, far less infrastructure, but it shares many of the same mountains and wilderness areas as the AT.

Last night I downloaded a very outdated guide for the trail, as well as the current Guthooks module for it. Yes, I turned the the dark side… The updated thru hiker guide for the trail is out of stock, likely pending a revision, as the trail changes year to year. Having hiked about half of the BMT, I noticed several discrepancies in the 2011 guidebook.

Ultimately, I’ve decided it best to spend some time with paper maps and do some real mission planning at home. The Smoky’s are really the only section I am worried about. Even with Guthooks, which has zero resupply information, I cannot make basic judgements. Essential information like how much food to carry, remains cryptic and unclear. The permitting system in the Smoky’s also requires that all campsites be reserved in advance.

Admittedly, I am trail weary and ready to get home. Additionally, being unemployed for ten months is taking a toll as well. While the BMT is short, I don’t have as much money to throw at it as I’d like. Money for things like overpriced resupply points, of which there are bound to be a few. Also, funds for shuttles, and other unplanned eventualities, is much thinner than I find comfortable.

I’ll save the BMT for another time. I also have my eyes on the Long Trail, which is the bigger prize in my opinion. I’ll get both of these trails planned and funded. Then, should I find myself between jobs again, I’ll knock them out. Two sub-300 mile trails are much easier to make time for than a six-month thru-hike.

Currently, I find myself missing my desk, my French press, and my zafu. Small comforts, which bring me so much joy. I miss my family, which will soon be gathered for Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday.

My hope is to help shuttle some SoBo friends to the airport in a few weeks. Maybe I’ll be able to give them a place to stay for a night after summiting Springer? Either way, I’d like to stay connected to the trail, and help the others as I have been helped.

Now to pack and get moving!

2 thoughts on “The Final Leg

Add yours

  1. I am so proud of you Ryan. I know your family will be so happy to see you. Have a wonderful finish to your hike and a blessed Thanksgiving. My favorite holiday too. Love you


  2. I really enjoy your writing style. It very well takes me into the solitude that you’re experiencing – something that, in a strange way, makes me feel at peace. Thank you.


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