AT Day 019: Wednesday April 26, 2023

Mile 267.5 + 16  miles / 26 km

Total Distance Hiked:  283.5 miles / 456 km

Garenflo Gap – Canebrake Ridge – Hot Springs – Mill Ridge Rd – Tanyard Gap – Roundtop Ridge – Rich Mountain 

A: 4952 ft/1479 m ~ D: 3150 ft/ 960 m

When I was a child I had a Woody Woodpecker clock. Woody was one of my favourite cartoon characters. I don’t remember what the alarm sounded like but I’d like to think it was not something like this mornings wakeup call. The hammering ng was enough the drown out any other bird sound.  How can such a tiny bird produce so much sound?

Today was initially predicted to be very wet and cold. Late yesterday it was revised to just overcast and cold. This morning we woke to a grey sky and not too cold and no rain.  So we are winning. Today we planned a nero day in the town of Hot Springs through which the trail passes. A nero day is almost a zero, a day on which you hike less then 10 miles.  Knowing we wanted to stay in town overnight and the bad weather ahead,  yesterday I tried calling ahead a couple of accomodation places to book a room. I had no luck getting the phone answered while we had service. Late in the afternoon I connected with an answering machine at Elmer’s at Sunnybrook Inn. I left my name and contact details and hoped for a reply next time we had service. 

This morning when I got service along the trail there was no reply. No problem we thought, we only had a short 7.5 mile hike into town and would be in just after 10am.

The sky was grey and the trailside vegetation not particularly colourful until we descended almost all the way into town. Most interesting blooms of Laurel were lining the trail. Such unusually shaped flowers. 

Just beginning to open up. Only seen them around Hot Springs
Only one White Iris
Still captivating beautiful

We made it to town and went to Elmer’s to see if we can get a room. The old gentleman who greeted us was busy stringing a beaded necklace and flatly said no – you need a reservation. But I protested, ‘ I tried but nobody answered the phone, I left a message after the fifth attempt. He wasn’t having any of it ” did you speak to a person?” he said. Well that person would be you and you weren’t answering the phone, I thought but said nothing. Finally he curtly told me ‘ the town is full of hikers’ and you needed a reservation. And that was that. Welcome to Hot Springs.  

So I looked at ringing the next place only to discover the town has no AT&T service. So we walked past a motel with an empty carpark, ‘Open’ sign flashing, we went to reception to discover a phone left outside the door and a number to call to get a room door lock code. The only problem, the phone had no power. So that didn’t work. The information office attendant was next to useless. 

At this point we decided to give up trying to stay in town. Since it wasn’t raining, we had breakfast, got our resupply and hiked out of town just after 1pm.  The breakfast was nice, just what we expected  The resupply options were limited since the Dollar General Store did not get it’s truck delivery. Lots of empty shelves and yes the town was full of hikers. We made do between the Dollar General and the Hillbilly Market nearby. 

By the time we headed out of town a  light rain started. It followed us up the mountain for most of the way. We passed a few hikers slack packing their way back to town. Slack packing is  a particular AT tradition because the trail is so accessible by car at so many points. You  leave your pack at your accomodation in town, get a shuttle up the trail and walk back to town. Then the next day get the shuttle back to the slack packing starting point and hike on. Hammer is not a fan of this shortcut. 

Since we had no phone service in town, we hiked to a point at which we got an AT&T signal and camped. We are near a fire tower which Hammer climbed to check out the views. 

As I was finishing this post a sound of gunfire echoed from somewhere down in the valley. It was bit disconcerting. But I figured we have an orange tent, surely they won’t shoot towards us.   And just as it started to get dark we heard man’s voice shouting and dogs barking.  Could it be a bear? We are camped alone, although Hammer saw another four tents about two hundred metres away. So at least  we have some company nearby.