Miles Hiked: 2.4
Ending Location: Sam’s Gap, Cantarroso Farm Hostel in Erwin TN
Forecasts of bad weather proved accurate as we woke up to around 3 to 4 inches of snow. Now that might not sound like much to the New Englanders and Minnesotans reading this journal, but it presented a host of problems to those of us camping in the woods. Have you ever had to knock snow off a privy seat before? More importantly, the AT which can be difficult to follow in normal circumstances just about vanishes in that much snow. Whoever thought that white blazes were a good idea…
It was a bit disheartening since I certainly thought that with the Smokies behind us and Spring upon us we had left this type of weather behind. Along with my cold I had no desire to tough on through another day on the trail only to be rewarded with low mileage and a night where the temperature dropped into the 10 degree range. So Owl and I called a local hostel and arranged for a shuttle to pick us up at one of the nearby road crossings. Yes we may be wimps, but we’re wimps with credit cards!
We only had two miles to go to make it to the road but that took us quite a while as conditions were bad. The temperature was still dropping and the snow started up again which complicated things. The worst part was going up and down hills as the snow combined with the leaves and the fact that we never really knew where the trail was led itself to slipping and sliding everywhere. Owl and I attempted to wear our microspikes but that was mostly worthless as the snow bunched up and stuck to them so the experience was akin to walking on platform shoes.
Luckily the road crossing itself was located at an underpass for the freeway. That meant our ride could get to us and we had some protection from the elements while waiting for it. While there we met Noodle and Studebaker who were unsuccessfully attempting to hitch into town, but with conditions the way they were no one was out on the roads. When our shuttle from Cantarroso Farms arrived we were very happy to see him, and even more happy to see the hot coco he brought us! His truck was also decked out in Virginia Tech stickers so we knew we had something to talk about.
He wasn’t expecting to pick up two extra hikers and a dog but Mike from the hostel offered to let Noodle and Studebaker ride in the pickup bed. Owl and I gave them the rest of the hot chocolate because riding in the back on the highway in that weather… It must have been miserable.
Noodle and Stude got off at Uncle Johnny’s hostel and Owl and I continued onto Cantarroso farms. A note about the hostel at the farms. Spoiler alert we ended up staying there twice, once this time and once again when we made it to Erwin by hiking in a couple of days later. It’s a very new hostel, we were their second guests, and they are certainly trying to cater to the better off hiking clientele. First off the place is clean. Like really clean! They did our laundry and returned it folded to us. It is a farm, they raise bees and they are right by the river where you can go paddling or fishing in better weather, (fishing poles provided but you are responsible for the fishing license). We stayed in the cabin which sleeps two, and has a fully stocked kitchen, shower, and restroom. For $25 a person this is an amazing deal.
Now for the downsides. The hot water heater in the cabin only lasts through one quick shower so two people getting clean requires some planning. “Who’s going to stink for the next hour?” The bigger issue is neither one of the owners focuses on the hostel full time so getting rides to it or around town can be hit or miss. Also they are still figuring out their pricing scheme so things were a tad more expensive than we originally thought. For example when Mike mentioned $20 round trip he was talking about his round trip and not ours. Finally they don’t have many bunks, (two in the cabin, two in the trailer, and one queen for couples in the main house). The reason I point this out is I would strongly recommend against sending a mail drop there as you might have to stay somewhere else.
All that being said, we made the right decision staying here. For dinner we were originally going to go to Pizza Hut but Mike mentioned the magic word barbecue so we found ourselves at Hawgs and Dogs instead. This was by far the best BBQ we’ve had so far on the trip and I would recommend it to anyone. What made it stand out was they had 12 different sauces and they were all unique and tasty vs simply mild to hot.
Mike and his wife invited us to hang out in their house and watch movies for the night but Owl and I declined. Both of us were tired and had to make phone calls now that we had signal.
Long story short, I’m very glad we decided to cone into town early vs suffer on the mountain. The trail will still be there in the morning.