Tri-Corner Knob Shelter to Standing Bear Farm
Miles Hiked: 18.1
AT Milage: 241.5
This morning I was very slow getting out of my tent. My goal was to get up as early as possible to get to Standing Bear Farm as fast as possible. Standing Bear Farm is a hostel that is one of the oldest on the trail. More importantly they have a resupply available where I can get more food. I ate what I had left for breakfast and saved a snickers bar and cliff bar for the road. After that my food would be completely gone. I didn’t have much fuel to get me through the 18 miles I need to walk today. It took me over an hour to get on the trail which is insanely long for me. I was cold and shivering the whole time I was packing things up and I only had completely wet clothing to put on.
I started my hike attempting to run and warm my body up. The first three miles felt great which I was really surprised about. The only pain I could feel was some small blisters which were new. I put some duct tape on them to keep them from getting worse. Even though I walked 50 or so miles through the park already, I hadn’t seen the mountains from a view since the first three miles of the park. Everyday has been extremely rainy or foggy so every viewpoint was only a white cloud with no visibility. Today everything cleared up and the sun came out in some parts so I could actually see things. It was exciting.
Davenport Gap was 15 miles from camp and it is the Northern border of the Smoky Mountains National Park. I was excited to get there because it means I walked through the whole park and I would only be 3 miles away from food. As I kept walking I got hungrier and hungrier and my feet got worse and worse. The terrain today was a 3,000 foot descent which I was thankful for because it makes me hike faster, however it also really hurts my knees. By the time I got a mile from Davenport Gap it felt like I was limping. I was hiking incredibly slow wondering how no one had passed me yet. I wanted to sit down on the trail and give up. Eventually I made it to the gap and took a nice long break. I dried out my tent and took off my shoes. I questioned whether I could walk the last three miles to food.
It was at this spot that that day took an interesting turn of events. One by one new hikers were passing me and stopping to say hi before they continued on. Then I met Camelback Santa and Shine. These two people gave me some food because they knew I was totally out. The crackers and chocolate I ate were enough to power me through the last 3 miles. They also suggested I hike in my crocs. I had seen people doing this before and at the moment my crocs were feeling better than my hiking shoes. I packed up my things, put on my crocs and started walking. The change in shoes gave my feet something else to feel other than pain. When I came across an ice cold stream I stood in it ankle deep for ten minutes and it helped my feet feel a lot better.
At this point I was getting great cell service for the first time and crossing / hearing many roads. At last I was back in civilization. As I was walking across a bridge over the French Broad River a man comes running full speed out of his RV next to the river trying to throw an ice cream sandwich at me. I was so confused and not expecting it. I recognized another hiker’s backpack sitting next to the RV and it was painted Appalachian Trail themed so I went to meet this interesting person. At the RV was Wind and Camelback Santa. Turns out the man who owns it and gave me the ice cream sandwich and soda is a trail angel named Onesimus. He has hiked the AT a total of 4 times and spends his retired life driving around the mountains supporting hikers throughout the season. We hung out with him for a while and learned about what he does to support hikers. I will probably see him again later down the trail.
After leaving Onesimus, the three of us hiked on another mile to Standing Bear Farm. When I got to the hostel I was blown away with how it felt like I walked into another world. I got a bunk for $20 for the night in a traditional trail bunk room. They have a shower house, washboard to do your laundry, a resupply store, charging station, kitchen, and fire ring. It has been described by other hikers as a hippie like commune. I can definitely agree that it is a very strange place, but I love it. Everything that you purchase goes by the honor system. They give you a pen and paper that serves as a tab where you write down everything you buy and don’t pay until you leave. There are old boots all over the place that have been made into flower pots.
At the hostel Santa split a pizza with me and then decided to throw me a graduation party since I was supposed to receive my diploma yesterday. It’s funny how everyone always finds a reason to celebrate on the trail. He bought everyone a beer and ran the show for about an hour. Everyone had a great time getting to know each other and hang out. It will be a night most people here say they will remember for the rest of their lives. I think I will take a zero here tomorrow to help my feet heal. The one rule about the AT if you want to make it to Maine is that you need to go easy in the beginning and take care of your body. These past few days I’ve exerted myself more than I could handle. It’s time for a rest.
I forgot to mention that Camelback Santa’s claim to fame is that he hands out candy canes on top of Camelback mountain, a popular tourist destination, in Arizona every Christmas. That’s all for now.