Over the night and into the morning it poured. We felt quite lucky to be in the converted barn. Haand Solo had a bit of reception and managed to get us reservations in the Mountain Harbor tree house. Then he returned to his down cocoon so that he could become a beautiful hiking butterfly when the rain disappeared. Seth Rogan started on his third cup of coffee, but we hit the road. When Tyler put on his poncho, the rain stopped. The fog stayed. When we hit the balds, though, the wind started.
There was no rain, but the fog, pouring through, fueled by the wind, did a fine job getting us wet. The 40-50 mph gusts eventually ripped the buttons apart on the poncho. It flapped like a cape until he finally just took it off to hike in shorts and a t-shirt. Emily's hair seemed permanently swept to the side. Two hikers, hunkered down behind a rock, smiling like madwomen, yelled at us to be careful we didn't get blown off the mountain. In between the roar of the wind, we thought it would be a suitable scene for Watson and Sherlock to be hunting misty foes on the moors.
Heading over a final fence in the windstorm (for some reason there are a few fences to climb over here) we met Kickatree. Emily helped him solve the fence riddle. He once started the AT 21 years ago, but at Hot Springs realized he had a thyroid problem (no metabolism) and had to get off. He said the trail had changed a lot of the years, though he was referring to himself as, at 57, he felt lower energy than even the time before but he'd keep going all the same. He's had quite a few careers- electrical techniciam, computer tech, massage therapist (started actually by a wonderful massage he received on the trail years ago), and a nurse. After that fence. After the fence, all three of us were psyched that the wind, no matter how exciting, had stopped. The final 4.5 miles we hiked at record pace. We also finished North Carolina for good! And soon Tennessee too! Tyler got a chance to call Cole for about five minutes until service cut out again.
At the 19E trail crossing, David, the owner of the Doe River Hostel was waiting with a free shuttle and Dr. Enuf (Tennessee's own special delicious soda from the same company who invented Mountain Dew). Though we weren't staying with him, he still offered us a free shuttle into town. His new hostel sounded great too. He's taken a LOT of hiker feedback to create his place: free laundry, free shuttles, great wifi, etc. Anyway, David gave us, Seth Rogan, Kickatree, and High Life (who showed up soon after we did), rides to Bob's Dairyland for the famed Holy Cow burger. Bob's Dairyland lived up to the hype. The lady who took our order was incredibly sweet and was super blown away that Emily knew to order sweet tea and ranch with her fries. Tyler ordered a holy cow burger, along with Seth Rogan, High Life, Kickatree, Haand Solo, and Redwood (Haand Solo and Redwood showed up later, Redwood is a former marine and bike racer who has the biggest calves we've ever seen). The twelve dollar Holy Cow burger is fr rom the bottom, as far as we remember bun, chili, burger, cheese, bacon, burger, cheese, Canadian bacon, burger, cheese, onion rings, bun, steak knife. Boom. We all ate ours and were still hungry (as a side note, we do burn 3000-6000 calories a day depending on weight and time hiked, don't try this at home.)
After the feast, we resupplied and, before the lot of us even had stuck our thumbs out, a guy pulled up in his truck to talk to us about a future shuttle business and give us a ride to Mountain Harbor. Where we finally got to check out our new digs the night.
*For De and Piper
The treehouse looked very rustic from the outside. Unfortunately, since its it's only a year old, it didn't have electricity or plumbing of any sort, but the inside was truly beautiful. The tree houses at some of the other hostels are... minimal and lacking structurally. The Mountain Harbor tree house was extremely comfortable. The bed was like sleeping on a cloud (not like the clouds in the Smokies, but more similar to the kind a little kid dreams about). We did have to charge devices and wash things a couple hundred yards back at the hostel.
*For Em's sister (pirate ship on the nightstand in the tree house)
Back at the hostel, we ran into Yard Dart again and finally got to meet his wife, Miss Bobbie. It was great to see him again too. They can definitely make the trail possible for anyone. Helpful to the point of silliness.
After hanging out for a while, we decided it was time to get some wildfired pizza. We hitched there with Seth Rogan, Haand Solo, and High Life. This is the first time we had to legitimately hitchhike. Within ten minutes, all five of us were picked up by a former paratrooper heading up to the VA for a hip replacement. Yup, everyone we meet is awesome.
*Seth Rogan (in hat) and Redwood. Everyone is getting real beardy these days.
We ordered three pizzas and four cookies. All was delicious. We also met a cat with a moustache. After pizza, we got a ride back with the Doe River shuttle, and headed straight to our cloud in the tree to sleep.