4/5/2018 – Day 27

Hogback Ridge Shelter to No Business Knob Shelter – 20.7 miles

It got below freezing last night and it was still pretty cold in the morning. Got a later start at 7:45, but it was all good because when I got to Sam’s Gap after a few miles, there was trail magic! Silent Paul (thru-hiked in 2007) cooked scrambled eggs and hash browns. Also had chocolate chip cookies, oranges, and soda. I drank a root beer for the first time in a while. Didn’t stop again until I got to the top of the bald before Bald Mountain Shelter. Beautiful 360° view with sunny skies and minimal wind. Played some p-bone and ate lunch up there. After that it was mainly downhill. Had to take it slow because of my tendon, but I still made fairly good time and got to No Business Knob Shelter by 6:10pm. There was one other guy there, but he ended up hiking on towards Erwin. Grant (Wisconsin) showed up maybe 30/45 minutes after me. He set up his tent, so tonight it is just me in the shelter. There are no bear cables at this shelter, so Grant and I hung out food bags up together. Also, no privy, so I had to do the fun poop and squat. Nero day in Erwin tomorrow. Hopefully that’s enough time for my tendon to heal more.

I was getting very tired of these cold mornings but it did help me pack up and get moving very quickly in the mornings, even with my later start on this particular morning. After my failed attempt at trying to eat oatmeal in the mornings, I had been eating anything I could get down quickly with maximum calories for my breakfast since day 3 of my hike. I still can’t eat oatmeal now over a year later. I’d eat a bar or a frosted honeybun – my favorite – while I packed up my bag and be on my way. Whenever I got hungry again in the morning, I would eat my ‘second breakfast’ that was always a clif bar. This particular morning I did not need my usual second breakfast because less than 3 miles into the day, I saw a sign that pointed uphill and said, “Trail magic, scrambled eggs, hash browns, soda, oranges.”

This is where I met a popular trail angel who goes by the trail name, Silent Paul. Silent Paul thru hiked the AT in 2007 and it was cool to hear his stories about how different it was just 10 years ago. Ever since his thru hike, he had set up trail magic in this location at Sam’s Gap in Tennessee just off of I-26 and right by a grave yard. He told me that he used to have hikers rake leaves around the grave yard to earn their trail magic but since it was just me there he said I didn’t have to. While he was cooking my eggs, I took my pBone out and played for him and was joined by another thru hiker. I ate my heart out, thanked Silent Paul for his generosity, and started hiking again.

There are not a lot of spots on the AT where you get a good 360 view but today I would get one of those great views. Balds on tops of mountain are few and far between. So much so, that some of the balds you walk over cannot be sustained by themselves. There are a good amount of ‘man-made’ balds that would have disappeared years ago if it wasn’t for workers who maintain them. Big Bald was a small bald patch on top of a mountain with an amazing view. I stopped there to eat my lunch and to play some music into the wind. Grant came up the bald as I was hanging out there. He took some pictures and then kept going and I followed shortly after.

Not far after Big Bald, there is a shelter called Bald Mountain Shelter. Nature was calling and I did not want to dig a cat hole so I went off trail to use the privy at the shelter. There I met some other hikers who were hanging out around a fire. They said that they had spent the night at that shelter and were in no hurry to start hiking today. This is a great example of hiking your own hike. I would never stay at my campsite so late into the morning/afternoon, but I met plenty of other hikers who preferred to sleep in and hike later in the day.

My tendon was still hurting but with my sister’s advice, I was taking it slow and at least not making the injury worse. It had not hurt nearly as bad as it did when I reached the 300-mile mark so that kept my mind at ease. I learned about biofreeze the year before from someone in one of my mom’s hiking/backpacking group and I am forever grateful that I had it with me from day 1 of my thru hike. 100% worth the few ounces of weight.

At the campsite, there was another hiker(unfortunately do not remember his name) who was making his dinner. We struck up a conversation as I was setting up my things in the shelter. He said he was going to hike a few more miles before calling it quits for the night so once he finished his food, he packed his things and hiked on. Not much later, Grant made it to No Business Knob Shelter and ended up setting up his tent. This shelter/campsite did not have bear cables or a privy and the water source was .3 miles south on the AT. Thankfully I saw that before I got to the shelter so I filled up on water as I passed it. Grant and I hung up our food together that night and agreed that whoever got up first would leave the other persons food bag hanging in the shelter. I was unable to avoid digging a cat hole tonight but it was at least easy to find somewhere to squat and do my business with only one other hiker there to hide from. It was also nice to have a shelter to myself for the night again but a bit weird because most nights so far, the shelter would be full of other hikers. I was happy to not have to worry about waking up to someone snoring though. That unfortunately, would happen a lot during my hike.

The trail magic sign that Silent Paul left on the AT to point hungry hikers his way. He was set up a steep hill but it was more than worth the steep climb to hear his stories and eat his food.

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