Saturday, December 2, 2017

A Few Hostels of the AT - Part 1

Some Hostels of the Trail

In this article, I will talk about all of the Hostels LoGear and I visited on our trek this year.  This article won't be anywhere near all inclusive of the Hostels that sit near the Trail and serve those who walk it, but it will cover the ones we visited as we headed north.

I like Hostels and the unique experience each provides.  I mentioned a lot while hiking, that the Hostel visit is an important part of the Long Distance Hiking experience for me.  It adds flavor to the hike and can give you a break from the Outsider way and also provide relief when the weather challenges you and your batteries need recharging (both literally and metaphorically).

The List

Here is a list of the Hostels we (or I) visited, where they are and when we stayed there, plus my ratings of how they did:

(With LoGear)
Len Foote Hike Inn, GA, Day -1
Walasi-Yi, Day, Neels Gap, GA, Day 4
Top of Georgia Hostel, Dicks Creek Gap, GA, Day 8
Standing Bear Farm Hostel, Davenport Gap, NC, Day 23
The Hostel at Laughing Heart, Hot Springs, NC, Day 26
Uncle Johnny's Hostel, Erwin, TN, Day 31 and 32

Mountain Harbour Hostel, Day 36
Boots Off Hostel, Hampton, TN, Day 38
Crazy Larry's Hostel, Damascus, VA, Day 41

(Phase II-b, still solo)
Church of the Mountain Hostel, Delaware Water Gap, PA, Day 98 (just spent the day here)
Bearded Woods Hostel, CT, Day 112 and 113 (slack packed on day 113)
Upper Goose Pond Cabin, MA, Day 117 (not actually a Hostel, but close)

Len Foote Hike Inn - Day 1

The Hike Inn is so unique in so many ways.  It was our jumping off point and a great experience before starting our adventure.  Technically, this would be our first (and only, so far) "work for stay" of the Quest.  Also, we arrived at the Inn in a special way that all of the other guests are unaware of.  

Our adventure started on this day.  We flew into Atlanta from Baltimore, arriving just after noon.  We rode the MARTA up to its northern terminus and were picked up by Richard "Peregrine" Judy.  A good friend, double 2000 miler, Author and President of the Board at the Hike Inn.  

After gifting us some fuel and stopping at a post office so we could mail our travel bags home, Peregrin took us through a Chic-Fil-A drive-through, to Amicalola Falls State Park to check in and then along some crude, winding, gated roads to the secret parking area at the Inn.  For us, it was the Len Foote Ride Inn.  

A collection of old packs in the main lobby

This place is amazing.  They are all about conservation of resources and ecological conscience and education.  You are encouraged to turn your phone off (not much signal anyway) and each morning, if the weather is pleasant, they walk through the bunk room area, lightly tapping on a bongo drum, to let you know that the sunrise may be nice.  

They compost all their garbage (with the help of red worms) and promote a clean plate goal at every meal.  The food is very good so cleaning my plate wasn't a problem at all.  They use composting toilets and solar energy to heat water and provide electricity.
My clean plate after a wonderful meal

The cost of a night here is quite a bit above the usual Hostel price, but it is totally worth it.  We were lucky to be able to sing for our supper (not literally, that would be a disaster), but I was able to do a 45 minute talk about the Appalachian Trail Museum and also talk a little about what LoGear and I were doing there.  Starting our own long distance hike, our Quest.  Our one night stay and the meals were a part of the deal. Of course we through what we could in the tip box to try and express our gratitude.  

The accommodations are rustic, with bunks in a small room, but there is a place to put your stuff and the mattresses were fine for the night.  The showers were warm and the toilets soothingly caressed your buttocks as you sat, with the positive pressure the composting toilets use.  

Our simple bunk room

I hope to someday get back to the Inn as either a guest or a volunteer.  It was quite an experience and I would love to spend more time there.

The morning was perfect as the bongo announced and we were able to enjoy our first sunrise of the Quest at the cool stone henge they have set up on the hill side.  

The henge thingie. The Summer Solstice casts a circle of light into the grotto.

Our first sunrise of the Quest

LoGear enjoys the sunrise

Price: $$$ - $122 per single, $175 for double.
Remarks: Boxed lunches for $
Value: 8
Amenities: 9
Overall Rating: 9 out of 10.

Walasi-Yi Center - Day 4

The Walasi-Yi Center at Neels Gap, GA was our first actual Hostel experience of the Quest.  We arrived early in the day after an easy nero day and were the first to check in.  Rain was in the forecast and we were happy to pick our bunks, use the shower and do some cowboy laundry.  We also did our first resupply here at the Mountain Crossings outfitter.  

The Hostel is a simple affair.  It has a kitchen area, a sitting area, one bathroom and a bunkroom with about 12 beds.  By the end of the day, we were full and we got to learning the names of those we have been hiking around for the last couple of days.  The guys were actually outnumbered by the gals in the Hostel, which is always a good thing.  

Our bunks were sufficient and although there were a couple of snorers, no one was exceedingly loud.  Most of us had done some sort of laundry, but the Hostel doesn't provide any laundry service as their well is nearly dry and it can't handle 20 hikers trying to wash all of their clothes.  We all did our best and there was a nice breeze moving through the gap that helped dry our clothes quickly.  

Drying clothes in the breezy gap

As I lay in my bunk, playing with my phone, using the spotty Wi-fi that was there, I could hear the rain falling outside.  It was good to be inside for the night.  The night indoors, gave us what we needed to start the next Push of the Quest.  

The famous boot tree on a misty morning

Price: $ - $18 per person.
Remarks: No laundry service (when we came through). Resupply on premises. No Pets.
Value: 6
Amenities: 6
Rating 6 of 10.

Top of Georgia Hostel - Day 8

As we arrived at Dicks Creek Gap, rain was once again in the forecast.  Just as we walked into the parking lot, the van from the Hostel pulled up.  Odometer, the volunteer driver, confirmed that there were a couple of bunks left, but they were filling fast.  This was the time we realized that you can call ahead to these places to make reservations, which a lot of hikers behind us were doing, so I guess we were lucky that we were able to get bunks in the main rooms.  

We were whisked down the hill about .5 to the Hostel.  We met Bob and Carrie and checked in.  We were put in separate rooms, but it was no biggie. We got our showers and put on the provided scrubs so we could get all of our clothes laundered by the staff for $5 each.  

The bunks were soft and roomy and their hiker box had a lot of goodies in it and we did a lot of our resupply from there.  Saving some money for when we would shop later in town.  

The Hostel also provides a shuttle into Hiawassee that we took advantage of, looking like an OR staff as we walked around town in our blue, gray and green scrubs.  After eating a good town meal and doing some resupply, we were picked up and taken back to the Hostel.

I have developed a "clean your plate" habit.

The Hostel once again filled up with people trying to get away of the upcoming weather, but we would be off in the morning, come rain or shine.  The place was very nice.  Along with three rooms in the main building, they had some small cabins that will also accommodate a dog if you had one.  This is a nice sitting area with a couple of guitars for those who dabble and they also have a decent outfitter where you could resupply if you wanted.  The gear selections are small, but if you needed something, they probably have it.  

In the morning, you get to listen to Bob talk about his Thru Hiking theories as you eat the included breakfast of all you can eat cereal, with coffee and juice.  Afterwards, you are whisked back to the trailhead to continue your hike.  Refreshed and enlightened for what is ahead.  

Price: $$ - $25 per person
Remarks: Laundry $5. Resupply on premises. Breakfast included. Pets Ok in outer cabins. Free shuttle into town.
Value: 8
Amenities: 9
Rating 8 of 10.

Standing Bear Farm Hostel - Day 23

We strolled into Standing Bear after an awesome week in the Smokys with super nice weather.  But of course, now there was rain in the forecast and everywhere along the trail was buzzing with "Trail Dayz" fever.  We grabbed our choice of empty bunks in the bunkroom as the van, driven by a crazy looking dude, headed out full of hikers going to the festival.  

I like to describe the Hostel as Unique.  It has a very interesting layout.  There are several buildings at the farm.  Each has its own special use and also I found that each had its own unique smell.  There was the bunk house and next to it, the kitchen.  The laundry building was where you washed your own clothes using a scrub board and double sink.  There was a dryer though and that helped.  

The Hostel had a decent supply of fresh, frozen stuff and they had beer.  They had a store building that had plenty to purchase.  Just about every item was past the expiration date, but that didn't really stop us from doing a full resupply (it was only for two or three days).

Those of us who were foregoing Trail Days hung out around the fire pit and LoGear and I each had our own frozen pizza for dinner.  

The caretaker was Clark.  Clark was a skinny guy that hung out on the porch of the bunkhouse, sitting in his rocking chair and propping his foot up on the porch post.  Clark had a nice long beard and an ever present pack of Marlboros in his shirt pocket.  He told me he was dying of lung cancer.  (I recently learned that Clark passed away not long ago).  Clark was the one who would get your pizza out of the freezer and your beer out of the locked beer building.  Everything else at the Hostel was done on the honor system.  You got a piece of paper and a pencil and you recorded your purchases. Settling up with Clark before you headed out.  

Clark, the innkeeper

I really liked this Hostel stay, mainly due to the way the place was.  It was AT culture at its finest.  Nothing was 5 star and that was ok.  It was AT 5 star though.  

Price: $ - $20 per person, $15 pp, tenting.  
Remarks: Primitive laundry. Resupply on premises, although most stuff out of date. Beer!
Value: 7
Amenities: 9
Rating 8 of 10.

The Hostel at Laughing Heart - Day 26

When we rolled into Hot Springs, rain was once again in the forecast.  We arrived at the Hostel early in the day and were able to quickly secure a private room.  The Hostel was guaranteed to fill up tonight as the rain came and came hard.  We showered and got in line for laundry.  Along with the communal bathroom and laundry, was a kitchen you could use.  Outside, there was some covered areas with seats where we could hang out and stay dry.  

All the bunks filled up and there were a few tenters.  I think there is also a lodge type accommodation behind the Hostel, but I don't know the details of it other than it was more expensive.  

The Hostel is basically right on the trail at the edge of town.  There are a number of restaurants, an outfitter and a couple of decent resupply stores a short walk away.  We did the walk, but in the middle of the heavy rain, so we were a little drippy when we walked into the Spring Creek Tavern for lunch.  

Rain filled AT symbol in the sidewalk in Hot Springs

After we completed our town chores and the laundry, we just hung out and drank a few beers.    

The next morning, my back felt not too good and I spent the next three days trying to get it re-aligned and pain free.  I guess the mattress in the private room didn't agree with my back issues.  

Price: $ - $20 for a bunk, $30 for single occupancy private, $25 semi-private and $45 for private. 
Remarks: $5 laundry.
Amenities: 8
Rating 6 of 10.

Uncle Johnny's Hostel - Day 31 and 32

After a very challenging Push, that had us dealing with the harshest string of weather so far, we made our way into Erwin to once again find a Hostel next to the trail on the edge of town.  We had stopped early the day before to fight off hypothermia so we arrived later in the day than we usually had so far.  The place was already full as far as the bunkroom and the many small cabins due to once again approaching rain and I think it was the Memorial Day weekend too.  

Heading down into Erwin, the Nolichucky River 

We weren't there for the cabins though as I only wanted to sleep in my hammock from then on if I could, after my bach issue with the last Hostel.  Fortunately there is a fairly new hammock pavilion at the back of the property and there was only one other person in there at the time.  I think you can hang at least six hammocks in there.  It was covered, with a table and an electrical box with four outlets. Each hammock area had an overhead light too.  It was a perfect setup for us.  We could hang, and not need our tarps and everything we needed was under the pavilion, with the restrooms a short walk away.  

Pixie, hanging out in the hammock pavilion

Since we had not taken a zero yet on our Quest, we decided to take one here. The free shuttle into town was very convenient and we used it three times to eat and resupply.

I slept great in the hammock area and when the rain did come in the night, we didn't care at all.  

Mileage sign outside the Hostel

Price: $ - $20 per person in the bunk room. $30 - $95 for the private rooms and cabins. $15 Tenting/Hammock.
Remarks: $5 laundry. Resupply/gear on premises, but Walmart was better. Free Shuttles.
Amenities: 8
Rating 8 of 10.


Part 2 will talk about the Hostels I stayed at when I was hiking solo, both down south and up north.  Stay tuned.  

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