Day 34 – Black Bear hostel to a stealth site by Wilbur Dam road

Today didn’t go as planned…in the most amazing ways!

I decided last night to stick around for breakfast at the hostel even though it wasn’t served until 8, which meant I’d get on trail a little later than I’d have preferred for my planned 19 mile day. So I set my alarm for 7 to give me some time to pack (my pack had exploded as usual in my cabin) before I hit the sack after watching a Fear the Walking Dead episode I had on my phone.

The rain rolled in about 1:30 and was so loud on the metal roof that it woke me up for a bit. I never really had a chance to sleep until 7 😝. I was up and getting dressed a little after 6. I talked to Hiker Boy and Moxy for a bit then we headed up the hill to the restaurant. The coffee was ready when we walked in and it was going down easy. I think I had 4 cups before I left. I had some cakes, eggs and bacon and of course it was all delicious.

I headed back down the hill, settled my tab and Moxy and I took a shuttle (golf cart) back to the trail head. I started hiking about 9:30.

The first part of the hike was a super flat path that lead to Laurel Fork falls. When I got close to the falls I was a little confused since FarOut showed the AT where the blue blazes were on the trail and the white blazes on the trail were where FarOut had a blue blazes trail. Always follow the white blazes.

That trail took me down to Laurel Falls and then some pretty narrow river trail walking after that. I worked my way out of the gorge over the next few miles and came to the climb up Pond Mountain. Fueled by pizza, beer, McDonalds, coffee and pancakes, I crushed the 3 mile / 2k fr climb. I reached the flats at the top and stopped for lunch a bit after noon. Sitting in the fog I had some jerky and pretzels and my new found favorite trail food: Oreo minis! A number of hikers from the hostels passed me while I ate (they must have been right behind me) and I also saw Bushwhack again.

I rolled down the other side of the mountain and saw a few more hikers from the hostel that were SOBO slackpacking. There was supposed to be a lot of rain, but so far all it had done was drizzle a bit off and on.

I reached the bottom of Pond Mountain around 1:30 and stared a brief reroute on a back road. I saw the signs for Boots Off Hostel and decided to stop in since I’d heard they were having music ahead of trail days.

I grabbed a Dr Pepper and a few cuties from the general store and had a seat. A few minutes late I ran into Noodle and we caught up. He decided to stay at Boots Off until trail days and shuttle in. In general most of the hikers I’ve talked to in the last few days are in one of two modes: crazy miles every day to get to trail days at the start OR taking it slow and planning to hitch or shuttle in. I met a few new TH as well: She-ra, Bird and Swami (who hiked last year and is following the bubble in his skoolie, offering shuttles and doing trail magic and happens to be from Louisville!!).

The music started around 3 and I somehow scored a beer from one of the hostel staff. The sun came out and the music was good. At this point my 19 mile plan got put in the round file. I started looking in FarOut for nearer options and found one only about 4 miles further down the trail. It required a water carry, but so be it. Live music, free beer and hanging with TH is what this is actually all about.

I left Boots Off when the first band wrapped up and hiked the remaining 4 miles, stopping about a mile in to get water. It rained a bit harder in that stretch but nothing terrible. I made camp around 6:30 and dined from my hammock.

With a shorter day today, comes a shorter day tomorrow too. I have another friend coming to hike a bit with me, so the plan is for their shuttle to pick me up at the last road crossing before Damascus, about 12 trail miles out on Friday. That’s only 26 trail miles from camp tonight so I’ll probably do a 15 tomorrow and an 11 Friday. All depends on if I stumble on any more music or free beer!

John Prine songs 🙌






4 responses to “Day 34 – Black Bear hostel to a stealth site by Wilbur Dam road”

  1. James Avatar

    I take it the trail made a sharp left at the end of the wooden bridge, but your camera angle made it appear that you were headed for a secret door in the rock wall. Did you put your ear to the wall and listen just to be sure? Might have been more music and free beer. That is what it’s all about!

    1. Chris Avatar

      Being there live it looked a little odd at first. I think that’s where Darby O’Gill and the little people live so def free music and beer!

      1. James Avatar


  2. Michele Avatar

    Lots of critters❤️

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