Appalachian Trail: Walnut Mountain Road to 19E

This is a story of three guys. Three guys that previously trekked the warm Carver’s Gap to 19E together one September day. Well, it was supposed to be over two days, but it was done in one. It was done in one because one guy had a messed up knee, he and another guy (me) sprained ankles, and the third guy …. well he was used to this kind of stuff.

So, having passed a few months, we decided it was time to go back out for another hike. This time, our 4th couldn’t make it, and we also decided a single day hike was a better option. We settled on a roughly 9-10 mile trek starting at Walnut Mountain Road and hiking back to our Hostel on 19E. We planned to leave on a Friday morning, head up to REI (of course), continue on to lunch in Boone, and end our trip at our Hostel, the Mountain Harbour Hostel. We would do some light trekking for the views, and finish the night with dinner, a campfire and 1 or 3 beers. Saturday morning was to include coffee, the famous Mountain Harbour Hostel breakfast, and a one way trip to our starting point. We figured we could hike back, clean up, grab dinner on the way home and be back in Eastern NC by 8pm.

Friday morning came early. After I checked and re-checked my back, I loaded up my wife’s 4Runner. Last time we hiked, I rode with Steve in his Ford Expedition, but since some winter weather was expected we figured 4WD would be a good thing to have. My Toyota Tacoma was a bit too small for 3 big guys (Steve being over 6 foot I’m sure), so I bribed begged pleaded asked my wife if we could swap vehicles for a couple days and reluctantly of course she was more than willing to let me borrow her 4Runner as long as I cleaned it after and filled it back up with gas without anything required in return. After picking up Chris and then Steve, we started our trip out to REI (because no hiking trip can start until you’ve offered a sacrifice at the Mecca of Camping and Hiking). Some lunch a while later, and a stop in Boone at MAST General Store and Footsloggers (just because), had us getting to the Hostel a little later than we had planned. All was good though as we stepped inside the familiar barn and claimed our bed for the night.

Staying at the Hostel with us were 3 other men. Juan Pablo was there for night skiing and I never saw him. Mark, a Paintless Dent Removal guy from the area was staying while going through a nasty divorce. He had the coolest diesel van, and apparently his wife had his Tesla “down in the holler”. And Patrick the accountant from Atlanta shared with us all his stories of our door escapades while resting from his trip up for Skiing. Chris, Steve, and I hung out at the Hostel, and took a trip over to the other Hostel for one beer, before heading back to settle in for the evening.

Saturday morning came early, and Steve and I walked up to get our coffee and confirmed that one of the families from last time was staying here again at the same time as us – what a coincidence. Breakfast was unreal as expected…. French toast, lemon strudel, some kind of egg soufflé, home made pork sausage patties, home style potatoes, and biscuits with gravy. A plate and a half was had before determining it was time to take a step back from the table and get my back ready to go.

I’m not sure what my pack weighed as I took things out when I reached the car, but starting weight was around 11 lbs. I’d guess my weight carried in the back was somewhere between 10-12 lbs for the day hike, with the weight being from water, a Rumpl blanket (just to fill up the pack a bit), a down coat, rain coat, gloves, hat, trek poles, and some miscellaneous goodies.

We learned that years ago the Sheriff’s Department wouldn’t even go in this area of Tennessee, which I found interesting given my background. I never knew a law enforcement agency scared to meet a threat head on – so I think this is mostly folk lore meant to add to the awe of the trail and area. We were dropped off on Walnut Mountain Road and started our 10 mile hike back to the Hostel (which ended up being 11.63 according to Garmin, but who’s counting).

A short while in, we stopped at a Shelter to take a break from walking and see the area. What we found was a strange bird. We weren’t sure if this was a pheasant, quail, Ethiopian tigerswallow, cow, etc…. but it sure came very close to us. We walked along the Eno River for a bit and took another short break. I took the opportunity to skip rocks on the Eno River – something that just seemed right.

All in all it was a great trip. Chris’ knee’s held up, I didn’t sprain an ankle and my back (herniated disc) held up, and Steve came through unscathed. We determined 10 miles in a day is a good distance for us – and planned our next to be around April 2020, at which point we’ll plan to hike slower and take more opportunities to stop and enjoy nature.

So, just like last time – I wont bore you with more words and instead, will share with you the photos of this amazing trip with friends…

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