AT Day 023: Sunday April 30, 2023

Mile 341 + 3.5  miles /5.6 km

Total Distance Hiked: 344.5  miles / 544.4 km

Temple Hill – Uncle Johnny’s – Super 8 Motel, Erwin, Tennessee 

A:  520 ft /  158 m D: 1790 ft / 545 m

A slow patter of rain on the tent was somewhat softened by the hooting of an owl somewhere nearby. I think that owls are my spirit animal, awake in the nautical twilight, while the world is still asleep. I had my coffee in the darkness and waited to wake Hammer. We wanted to take advantage of a break in the rain to break camp and take the short hike down to Uncle Johnny’s Hikers Hostel. From there we plan to hitch the five miles to our motel in town.

Rain followed us all the way down the mountain. Stands of white azalea lined sections of the trail. We made it to Uncle Johnny’s just before 8am.

The hostel is not on the main road into town so we walked along the road in the rain to get to a good hitching spot. We didn’t think we had much of a chance being a wet Sunday morning. But within 15 minutes we got a ride to town. A local trail worker Chuck, stopped after realising we were hikers and not homeless folk wandering the streets on a wet Sunday morning. It was only a short ride so we didn’t have a chance for a long conversation with Chuck. He is an Erwin local and has lived here all his life. He wants to teach his kids the value of what they have right here in their back yard.

We were soon in the foyer of the Super 8 Motel having breakfast while waiting for our room. We met a few hikers here speaking mostly to the Guru, Jurgen and Fabian. Guru is a GP from San Diego and used to race mountain bikes professionally. He was hiking with Fabian and Jurgen who are from Germany. They met on the shuttle bus in Atlanta and have hiked together since. Too many funny stories to share but it was a pleasant couple of hours before they checked out to head back to trail and we checked into our room. The usual town chores followed before we could put our feet up and catch up on news.

Hammer with the Guru, Fabian and Jurgen


Hammer and I hike at different speeds particularly on the climbs. This gives us a lot of alone time while hiking. Keeping up with a word from Hammer on our rest days here it goes, some musings from from Hammer on North Carolina.

Crossing into North Carolina from Georgia felt no different on trail, except the hills seemed more frequent and perhaps the climbs and descents were closer together.

Being on trail for 10 to 11 hours a day gives you a lot of thinking time. Your sole job is to move forward, not fall on your face or injure yourself, experience the views that present themselves, be kind and sociable with other hikers. 

This often leaves a lot of thinking time. These past few days I have been thinking about how some people have a distrust of science.

My musings on science started when I was remembering a story a friend who is a surveyor told me. He has high tech instruments to do his job and years of university education. He recently presented his findings on a building site to a council officer who said “you’re “wrong”. Not how did you arrive at that or could I see your methodology.  Just you’re wrong. When asked why he thought my friend was wrong he said that he had a feeling it was wrong. Now should his feelings over rule five years of University study and about 35 years of experience and tens of thousands of dollars in high tech equipment.

The reason I have been thinking of this as it seems to be the same thing that is occuring with some peoples distrust in science. Whether it be climate change, vaccination or wacky health advice.

There seemed to be a time when we trusted the specialist in their field and consulted on their knowledge. You did not go to Barry the mechanic for medical advice nor Trevor the dentist for car advice. So why is it some people seem happy to take advice from people unqualified to give advice?

Having been a Science teacher and having taught the scientific method over many years, it is with dismay that I look at this distrust of science.

I remember teaching epidemiology and the misinformation regarding smoking and cancer. Court cases would be brought against the tobacco companies. All the companies had to do was sow doubt about the facts. And they got away with it for a long time.

You might be wondering what has this got to do with hiking the Appalachian Trail. It is while wandering through the natural environment that this distrust of science raises fears in me for the future. Although people have preserved these areas in the past, I worry about their future health and survival. At Clingmans Dome the information boards stated that the visibility from the tower has decreased 40% in Winter and 80% in Summer due to air pollution. The Spruce forrest surrounding Clingmans Dome is not doing much better, with 90% of the forest under threat due to acid rain and the pine beetle. The pine beetle is doing damage to all the pine forests in the US. Evidence suggests that this is due to increased temperature where the beetles are becoming dormant for shorter periods of time. This does not giving trees time to recover seasonally, so causing irreparable damage.

I hope the ease with which misinformation is accepted will lessen as time goes on. I also hope that we are able to become more serious about cutting carbon emissions to acceptable levels in order to reduce the effects of climate change.

I’ll get off my high horse now and share my favourite sections of trail this past week. One of the highlights of North Carolina was Max Patch Mountain. Along the trail it is rare to get views, let alone 360 degrees. Max Patch grassy bald gives exactly that. We were lucky we had a nice sunny day when we hiked over the top. There are also outstanding views from the various fire towers. My two favorite fire towers was one just out of Fontana Dam, which gave great views back towards the dam. The second was about 8 miles out of Hot Springs which had great 360 views of the surrounding mountains and with many of the valleys filled with mist.

Views from Fontana Dam Fire Tower
Views from Max Patch Mountain
Views from the fire tower north of Hot Springs

We have not completely finished with North Carolina as we bounce along the Tennesse and North Carolina border. It is actually hard to tell which state you are in most if the time. We’ve hiked a total of 78 miles in Georgia which I forgot to mention in the last post and we will travel 96 miles in North Carolina and another 227 miles flip-flopping along the North Carolina / Tennessee border.