Erwin, TN

04 Sep

May 9, 2012

No-Longer-A-Teen daughter at a trail head

Hostels seem to be a great place for the thru-hikers to catch up on all the gossip concerning the moving party that is the annual migration north. Hiker-knowledge knows the general whereabouts of all recent hikers whom have moved northward, as well as the stragglers whom have still not arrived.

Uncle Johnny’s is no different.

As I walk through the hostel grounds, I see only one familiar face. Der Vunderhiker, who cruised past me en route to a 26 mile day yesterday. That would be a mountainous marathon with 30 pounds on his back; he smiles and gives me a shy acknowledgement. On this rainy afternoon, he is the only one I recognize. Since I have outpaced nearly everyone I started with, it’s no surprise. As the day progresses, I will see more and more familiar faces.

People stop at Uncle Johnny’s for the obvious reasons: shower, laundry, and a ride to town for a massive intake of calories.

Teen daughter leads me to our luxury accommodations: one of the cabins with a double-sized bunk bed and a sofa. I’m soaked, so after smiles, wet hugs, and a few quick stories, I’m ready to get a shower, and then get dry and into some clean clothes.

I’m not overly-impressed with the showers, but at least they’re functional. The warm water in an unheated shower room on a cold-rainy spring day makes for an interesting experience. One must move quickly once the warm water is off in order to get adequately clothed again – and to stay warm.

Showers to the left, cabins to the right

One thing that a carefully planned section hike affords you is the occasional access to an automobile. Ours is here. It only takes one or two section hikes to establish a ritual, and ours is to head to town for a sit-down meal. Today, just for the heck of it, we drive to nearby Johnson City and to a Bob Evans. Thanks, Bob, it was great. Upon returning to the hostel, the rain is easing a bit, leaving everything wet, but at least not getting wetter.

Victory meal at Bob Evans

“Look, there’s Greta. Apparently she’s made it down off the mountain.”

Teen daughter enquires, “Which one?”

“The blonde,” I say, pointing.

“She’s a redhead.”

“No, she’s clearly blonde.”

“No, she’s a readhead.”

There’s no point in arguing with her. I know a blonde when I see one so at least I’m satisfied that I’m right. I let it drop.

Bama and Winkle are there. They skipped a section and rode to Uncle Johnny’s together with my clan yesterday from where the trail intersect I-26. I head to the covered deck area, an area which serves as the major gathering place at the hostel. The place looks like a hundred spoiled kids, all of whom think Mommy should clean up after them, have had a party and just walked away.

Grim, the innkeeper keeping all aspects of the hostel running, emerges from the office and announces that the van is heading into town in 5. Load up or get left. A rough group of hikers dutifully pile into the van and soon they are gone.

Left behind is another familiar hiker, Sarong Man. He’s wearing thin nylon shorts now, which accentuate his parts much the way the sarong did. Somehow he seems a bit proud of his attributes. I wonder if he knows that half the population on earth has the same attributes, and no one is clamoring to see them?

“Aren’t you heading into town?”

“No, Uncle Johnny and I had a disagreement about what I owed him, and I refuse to spend a dollar here.”


Now that the crowd has thinned, I take the opportunity to gather the empty soda cans and take them to the recycle bin. The bin is overflowing. I carefully create a Jenga-type tower with the cans as they pile high. I have no idea why I’m compelled to gather trash and straighten things up. Probably because the area has exceeded my tolerance for trash and chaos.

Uncle Johnny’s

To No-Longer-A-Teen daughter I say, “I heard Greta asking someone when they were checking out. Apparently Uncle Johnny is letting her stay for free on a work-stay plan.”

“Which one is Greta?”

“She’s the blonde, athletic-looking girl.”

No-Longer-A-Teen daughter looks puzzled, “You mean the redhead?”

– – – –

Bama engages me in conversation, “Your daughter sang at the campfire last night, she’s really good.”

Teen daughter loves music and wants to make it her life. She had played guitar and done some fiddling at Standing Bear hostel just last year. This year we didn’t bring a full-sized guitar with us, but she brought a small, thin, trail guitar. Somehow she makes it sound like the real thing. (Since finishing this hike she has released an EP on iTunes. In case anyone is interested, the link to her website is here.)

The cast of characters continues to assemble; I see Brazil and Trekky. We make eye contact, smile, and exchange knowing hiker-waves.

Campfires and singing

As darkness creeps in, someone starts a campfire and Bama is persuading Teen-Daughter to do some more singing. It doesn’t take much coaxing. A group of rough-looking hikers, guys with untrimmed beards and permanently ragged clothes, gather for stories, singing, and the warmth of the fire. The night air is not warm.

– – – –

In the morning we are packing for home. I wouldn’t mind moving further up the trail, but Teen-daughter’s knees aren’t going to allow her to go, and quite frankly, the logistics of the whole thing seem daunting.

After packing the car, I see Greta. She is still looking for rooms to clean to honorably keep her end of the work-stay bargain.

“We’re out of our cabin.”

“Great, thanks. Which one is it?”

I point to the place we have recently vacated.

While in town yesterday, we tracked down an Ace bandage. I walk to the office area where we will pin it with a note to Henry. You may recall that Henry was a hike-saver when he had a bandage and some anti-inflammatories to share after I rather badly sprained my left ankle.

I will never know if he gets it, but the gesture seems mandatory. I sincerely hope that he showed up within a couple of days, saw the bandage and the note, and perhaps smiles at the gratitude with which it was left.

Lovely wife is there and I tell her that I saw Greta and let her know we were out of the room so that she could clean it.

She answers, “Greta? You mean the redhead?”

“She’s blonde.”

Teen daughter is there, Dad, do you know what her trail name is?”

“No. What?”

“Ginger Snap.”


Posted by on September 4, 2012 in Uncategorized


4 responses to “Erwin, TN

  1. medtra

    September 11, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    Love it!

    Here’s a little something you might enjoy reading-

    My sister & I were celebrating our birthdays together (2 years and 1 day apart in age) About 20 years ago with my mom, and good friend. We all went down to a bar in the Fort Worth Stock Yards (The Elephant Bar) to have a toast after dinner. WE WERE ALL BLONDE”S at the time and sitting like ducks in a row watching the live band, in walks these two big cowboys and sat down right behind us. Boots, hats, big belt buckles, you name it. They were true to the calling ‘Texas Cowboys’! After awhile, referring to us, one of them belts out pretty loudly, “Well, I know which one I want.” We all waited in anticipation thinking each one of us was the chosen one…His friend asked, “Which one?” His answer was, “THAT BLONDE ONE!”

    It took us a a minute to realize, we were all blonde… Ironically, my sister ended up meeting her husband years later on a fluke at that very bar.

    Hope you enjoy this. There is more to the story. But, I won’t bother you with it.

    As always, thanks for sharing.


    • medtra

      September 11, 2012 at 7:05 pm

      My sister’s husband was the base guitar player in the band! a retired police detective…lol

    • G N Bassett

      September 11, 2012 at 7:44 pm

      I can assure you, a good story is NEVER a bother! Do tell…

  2. Sam Goldsberry

    October 24, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    Enjoyed this post as well! I have stayed at Uncle Johnny’s a few times during my sections hikes also. Latest was earlier this month. Keep up the hiking and the interesting posting! Good Luck!


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