It was our intent to hike 11 miles from Spivey Gap to Erwin, picking up the miles that we had left unfinished, however a storm had rolled in, leaving the mountain top pretty dangerous. Many hikers have been posting pictures of themselves fighting to stay upright in the wind, hikers have had to be rescued from the top of the mountain because the temps had suddenly dropped. Though the area that we were planning to hike, the distance and the fact that we would not be sleeping on the mountain would have kept us from the dangers of hiking, we opted to go to the library instead. We had spent a few days at Miss Janet’s, and though it was an awesome experience and a lot of fun, we were tired of being in such close quarters with other hikers. We needed some quiet. No place like the library to find just that. The nasty weather outside made the library an even more attractive alternative to hunkering down in doors with other hikers, or hiking in the pouring rain.
Miss Janet dropped us off at the library just as it was opening. The kids were able to read, color, update their friends on the latest events and chill in the quiet. Ryan spent some time perusing through different magazines and catching up on current events. I spent the morning pouring over our plan… trying to figure out where and when we were going to hike, trying to formulate some sort of plan for flipping north. The more I tried to figure that out, the more I thought about how much that was going to change the dynamic of our hike. I questioned if we are ready to be in our neck of the woods again? Are we ready to have friends and family around us? These questions are difficult to answer. We all miss home. We all miss family and friends. We are all ready for a little more normal, but not yet. We have so much to sort through. Taylor wrote something that he decided not to publish, but in it he explained how much “noise” there is in NH. In his writing, the intention of our journey is so eloquently stated… we need to get away to the silent place, to the place where no other voices can be heard but those of God and eachother.
The friction that started to stir in me, and the hunger in our bellies led us to McDonalds, where we set up in the back corner of the restaurant and had heartfelt conversations for several hours. The results of those conversations are what let me to write about change.
Miss Janet pulled into the parking lot with a van load of hikers. As they jumped out, we jumped in. When we got back to Miss Janet’s there were a few dozen hikers. Looking around at all the hikers, and knowing what the weather was going to be, we made the decision to go back to the Super8 for another night. It ended up being a wonderful decision. Ryan and I were able to share a king room, alone. The kids slept a couple of rooms down the hall. We ordered in pizza and we all got a wonderful nights sleep.
This morning when we woke up, our intentions were to stop by Walmart to resupply our packs, drop off our packs at Doe River Hikers Rest, and step out from Carvers Gap to slackpack northbound the 14 miles back to the hostel. Well, we stopped at Walmart, and we dropped off our packs, but that is when everything else changed. The weather was so bad that many of the shuttles in the area were driving on icy roads to the mountain pass. Several of our friends, to include Huggy Bear, Little Foot and Shutterbug were all rescued off the mountain this morning. They told us that the visibility was so low that they were having a hard time following the trail, several hikers were experiencing the early stages of hypothermia and it was flat out freezing. Now, freezing temperatures are not fun, but they are not particularly dangerous, in and of themselves, but when there are freezing temperatures, freezing rain, and high winds… that is dangerous. We knew that since we were planning to slack pack the miles, we would not have gear to bundle up in if we ran into any problems. This particular stretch of the trail is 14 miles, with no way to get off the mountain if the weather turned even worse. With all of this information, we decided it was best to resign to another day off trail.
We all went down to the Roan Mountain Hiker Fest for a little while and saw a bunch of familiar faces. We also were able to chat with some new folks, who were kindly passing out treats to the hikers. Especially appreciated was the hot chocolate that they were making. It was cold today, and humid… so it was just bone chilling.
We finally met our new friend David Magee. His daughter, Samantha, attends the church where my father-in-law was the preacher for the past 10+ years. He is the owner of the Doe River Hiker Rest. He had extended an invitation many weeks ago. It was nice to finally meet him.
He has a single wide trailer set up nicely for hikers. There just so happens to be exactly seven beds. In the main house there is a large family room where we visited with a bunch of hikers. The boys found the stringed instruments and had a great time picking out tunes. I love watching them explore the instruments and learn from other hikers with more experience.
Taylor found a dulcimer. None of us had ever seen one. He tried to play it like a ukulele. Well, as we learned today, it is an instrument that is supposed to be played resting on your lap. It is played from the top. We had a good laugh.
When it came time for dinner, David recommended a little place called Smoky Mountain Bakers. Seriously, we’ve never had pizza that was as good as that. Brick oven pizza with thin, crispy crust. It was so good. They were supposed to close at 8pm, but stayed open just for us. It was super kind of them. They even sent home a huge box of home baked goods to share with all of the hikers staying here.
An older gentleman, who goes by the trail name, Mystic, is staying with us in the trailer. When a hiker is in danger, and when the weather is so super crummy, you find a way to fit one more. There was an extra mattress here, so we threw it down on the floor next to the bed in the living room for Ava and Zoey. Mystic was one of those hikers struggling with pre-hypothermia. We are glad that he made the decision to come into town. He is a super interesting man. He joined the Army’s JAG Corp in September of 1978, and has worked for the government ever since. He retired in March, and headed out here to the trail at the end of March. He is crushing this trail thing!!!
After dinner, we came back to the hostel. Ryan and David took a long hike down memory lane. David is from a town not too far from where we live. They talked for a couple of hours. He even knows where Lowville, NY is. (This is a town that Ryan drove through every weekend to get home, not too far from Fort Drum.). Sometimes it seems like the world is this huge place, and then all of the sudden it seems so small.
Thank you David for your generous hospitality!!!
We are hoping to crush out the 14 miles from Carvers Gap back here tomorrow. Apparently, the view from the mountains are absolutely breathtaking. It will be cold, and a bit windy, but it is supposed to be a completely clear day.
Well, it is far past hiker midnight, so we will say good night for now…
Happy Trails ~ The Thru Crew