Day 187 – Slacking

Ahhhh, it’s a wonderful feeling to carry six pounds on your back when you usually carry thirty plus pounds. I’ve been the lucky hiker who has been able to “slack pack” over three hundred miles at the end of my trek thanks to two Trail Angels – my husband, Marc, and Santiago’s wife, Laura. We are a couple days from beginning the 100-mile wilderness, and even in that desolate stretch Laura has found a way to meet up with us every few days so we can light-pack at around twenty-some pounds.

Marc started our stretch of slack packing at the end of August, and after he went home a couple weeks later, we found kind shuttle drivers who took some of our stuff up north so we could light pack the days between his visit and Laura arriving. Not only does a light pack make the days lots better – easier footing on steep slippery rocks and less wear on my knees, but it usually means we stay in a hostel, hotel, or off-trail campground that night. Showers, electricity, and restaurants are greatly enjoyed when you’ve been living in the woods for six months! We still camp out a night or two every week, because we hike through such remote areas. Slack packing has made the camping out in between fun again. Even when it’s raining or dips down close to the freezing point, we aren’t too glum because we know in a day or so we will be warm and dry.

Friends and followers, we are only about twelve hiking days from finishing our 2,190.9 mile trek! I have been enjoying the journey far more these last weeks than we were in the middle, thanks to Marc and Laura. It’s been tough and challenging, beautiful and humbling, …and ever so much better since our favorite Trail Angels came to help lighten our load.

Day 44 – Hostel Territory

All along the trail, people open their homes and set up bunkhouses and B&B’s for thru hikers. Most are “primitive” as one owner mentioned, and others are more like quaint retreats. It rained a lot last week while Melynn was with me on the trail, so we stayed in three different ones during her adventure in the thru-hiker life.

Prices range from $5 to $30 for a spot in a bunkhouse or shared room, and usually include shower with towel and a “real” bathroom. Some include cereal breakfast, have a place to do laundry, and/or offer free shuttles to town.

Let me show you some of the differences and you can see how eclectic they are:

Mountain Crossings Hostel at Neal’s Gap less than 30 miles in the trail. Trail Angels came with dinner and the thunderstorm and cold were kept at bay… for us.

Top of Georgia is run by former thru hiker and they clean like maniacs. Bunkhouse was basic, but they had loaner clothes and washed your laundry for you.

We just had dinner at Standing Bear Hostel, as we wanted to put in more miles. It had pizza and beer and a little resupply place. Some hikers sleep in their tree house.

Elmer’s Sunnybank Inn is more of a retreat, with a few rules that made sense, like leaving boots on back porch, no cell phones in common areas, and sign up for dinner by 3 pm. The house smelled fantastic all afternoon as Elmer cooked for us. He’s also a former thru hiker. Dinner and breakfast were fabulous!!

Bob People’s is a former thru hiker and now trail volunteer. He runs Kincora Hostel and hikers make themselves at home whether or not he’s there when you arrive. It’s the first time I’ve gone inside and helped myself to clothes and a towel before showering in a stranger’s home when no one had been there to greet us. It was a very relaxed place.

CeeCee moved the tables in the top photo so seven people could sleep on the floor in a rainstorm. I was lucky and had a bed!

I camped at Boot’s Off Hostel, and still could use their shower, “privy”, kitchen, shuttle, and WiFi plus the cereal breakfast for $10. What a deal!

There are so many stories to tell about each one, the quirky owners of some, the rules, and adventures, but the trail waits and I need to hike on.

Day 36 – It’s Tough

We interrupt this regularly scheduled post to bring you an important announcement about upcoming weather on the AT:

Rain and more rain. RV’ers east of us are being evacuated right now as rain continues. We’ve been hiking in it three days and were glad when Wingman told us there were bunks still available at Greasy Creek Hostel. We cut our hike short a couple miles and took the side trail .6 miles to the hostel, and we are drying out quite nicely. Stud has his truck here, so he took us to a diner where we filled up on a good hot meal and came back to a fire in the wood stove and movies on roku in CeeCee’s main house. CeeCee even offered free glasses of Merlot. Great idea!

Tomorrow we plan to slack pack 12 miles and stay here again as the rain is predicted to be even harder and all day.

Slack packing is when you take only what you need for a day hike and a shuttle picks you up and brings you back to your stuff. At this hostel, they drop you twelve miles north and you hike southbound back. It’s much faster, and we are excited to have a chance to make miles in less time.

I can now say only 6 days of the 36 I’ve hiked have been the kind of weather someone at home thinking of hiking would actually say “Yes, let’s go for a hike!”

There were two nice days I was off trail to meet Melynn and to watch my niece, Charlotte (#17), play lacrosse at college not far from the trail. They are first in their conference and whooped the opposition. Great game! The other 28 days…. let’s just say if I invited you to hike any of those days you would have said “Heck No!”

Never the less, most thru hikers still come to camp happy they are hiking the AT and I am definitely in that group!

I just know the trees on top of the mountains will eventually leaf out with warm spring days. Right now the trees are not even pushing bud. One day soon I won’t believe it was cold for so long, but now the last freezing night was only five days ago when we awoke to 27 degrees, frozen water bottles and wind so cold and harsh I thought the left side of my face was heading for frostbite.

So, the rain is terribly unpleasant and it’s hard not to be too cold or too hot as you fend off rain in rain jackets and pants, while your inner core temperature shoots up with the effort of hiking mountains, but… it hasn’t been lower than 43 degrees or so since that last very cold night five days ago. The “warmer” temps give me hope we will soon be hiking in sunny days with spring all around us.

In the meantime, I hope Melynn isn’t too bummed out about the rain as it looks like we have a few more days of rain before the sun will come out and give us a day anyone would be glad to say “Yes, let’s go for a hike!” If anyone else wants to join me for a few fun days in the trail, check out my tracker on the mail drops page and let me know when to look for you!

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