June 3rd 2018
Laurel Fork Shelter – Iron Mountain Shelter (mile 444)
22.6 miles
Total miles: 454.8

I woke up absolutely starving and desperate for a wee so there was no lying in this morning. I stuffed down two mini chocolate chip muffins and packed up quickly. All night I felt like I had tiny bugs crawling on me. I probably did have tiny bugs crawling on me. 

I was getting annoyed with a certain individual so I left as quickly as I could. You hike next to the Laurel Fork river and cross over it on some nice bridges. I was thankful for those bridges because the river was raging. I came across a couple of camp sites and one of them had hung their bag right next to the trail, in such a way that I could just reach up and touch it. I honestly think it’s better to keep your food in your tent because there is absolutely nothing stopping a bear getting a bag hung as badly as that. 


A very badly hung bear bag


I slogged my way up the climb. I made the mistake of checking my GPS when I thought I was near the top only to see I wasn’t even half way. Ugh. There were quite a few switchbacks which made it a little easier than it would have been without them but there were still a bunch of quite steep bits. 


I got some decent phone reception and tried to multitask by doing things on my phone and walking. It wasn’t a good idea. I stopped for a bit and that gave Moon the chance to catch up to me. We were really close to the top at this point and I stayed behind him for about 0.4 of a mile then moved on quickly when he stopped to get water. I know I’m faster on the downhill. 

We had to descend the same as we had just ascended, but at the bottom there was the promise of hiker goodies, a picnic table, trash cans and outhouses. I went super fast downhill, only stopping to pick up an old helium balloon off the trail, and I made it down to the picnic area. The first thing I noticed was that most of the picnic tables were submerged in the lake. Then I saw there were no trash cans. Then I found out that all the toilets were locked. Not good!!


By the time I had finished having a look around Moon had made it down the hill and we saw that there was a little reroute because of the flooding. So we had to walk up the road for a bit and loop back onto the AT, because the lake was so high part of the trail was under water. On the road walk Moon decided he wanted to order a pizza to be delivered to the trail because we were so close to the town of Hampton. He called 3 pizza places. None of them would deliver. So we continued on around the lake. 


I had already eaten my snacks for the day. A belvita bar, a Twix and some fruit snacks. I sat on a log by the lake and ate the last packet of Doritos. I left Moon playing his bamboo flute and carried on. There was a lot of uphill today. I had to sneak off the trail and find a place to poo because the picnic area was such a disappointment. Moon got ahead of me. 

Just as I was about to cross Watauga Lake dam, Indoor Kid caught up to me and we walked over the dam together. One side was the lake and the other side was basically a quarry. We continued on up the road and it was a very hot and steep uphill climb. The sun was out and it was too hot. Indoor Kid took a break and I carried on and I came across Moon and a new guy – Trail Walker – sitting down having a snack. I decided to eat my tuna. It was about 1:30pm. I still had over 10 miles to go and no food for the day left. 


I hiked on and the three boys were in front of me. I smell bad. I smell really bad. Sometimes my own smell makes me want to be sick. But I don’t smell as bad as Trail Walker. He really smells to the point I had to hang back a bit so I didn’t get his smell drifting down the trail. Moon also really stinks, but he says he thinks he doesn’t smell. 

I caught up to them all as they were getting water from a stream. I was completely out of water so I scooped up half a litre and carried on. Trail Walker was out in front and I maintained second place. It was only a couple of miles to the shelter, Indoor Kid said he was going to stop at this shelter because he was having so much pain in his foot. I was a bit sad about that as he’s one of the nicest people I’ve met on the trail. He actually asked me how I was doing earlier today, a question which hasn’t been asked for a long time! 

There was a rather odd guy there who was already in the shelter in his sleeping bag. Weird because it was around 3:30pm. I couldn’t be bothered to make small talk. I was in one of those moods where I’d had enough of meeting new people and so I moved on quickly. I was also hot and hungry and still had 6.8 miles to do to get to my destination. 


Moon and Trail Walker said they were going to go another 4 miles to a camp site. As I hiked on the weather was on the turn. I had to stop briefly to sort my shoes out. They were nearly dry, my feet weren’t dry but my shoes and socks were close. I had a few bits in my shoes which were beginning to rub. It got darker and I felt some sprinkles of rain. I had all of about 10 seconds to get my umbrella out before it poured down. A short sharp shower where an insane amount of rain fell in a very short space of time. Moon came running past and said he was going to aim for the shelter. Shit I though. It’s a small shelter which sleeps 6 people. I may not get a space and I’ll have to pitch my wet soggy tent, but it is what it is. 

I carried on and it looked like the rain was stopping. But it darkened again and there was thunder and lightning and the rain was like a fireman was firing his water cannon at you. It felt like the apocalypse. It was so dark and the rain was coming in sideways. My left side didn’t stand a chance. It was soaked. The umbrella kept my head and shoulders and my right side dry which was something. But the rain was so hard it felt like it was bending the umbrella. It was a bit of a fight to hike through the rain with the wind blowing  and I just pulled the umbrella in as close as I could and just kept walking. The trail was a river and it was about ankle deep. 

It was utter madness for about 15 minutes and I got really grumpy. Why am I out here doing this through all this rain. It’s not fun at all. It was now about 5pm and I hadn’t eaten for hours which wasn’t helping either. Thankfully it wasn’t cold because I was already wet, tired and hungry. Cold would have been a terrible addition. 

The apocalyptic weather gave way to a more gentle rain which continued until just before I got to the shelter. The last couple of miles were a drag. I had Moana blaring out of my phone to try and take my mind off the hunger and that got me through. I was concerned that Trail Walker was going to pass me and I wouldn’t get a space in the shelter. But I carried on. Got water from a stream 0.2 before the shelter, I then decided to carry the water in my hand which was a mistake because it was all uphill. 

I got there and there was a space for me. There were three other people already there, and Moon had a spot so there was one left. Maybe it would go to Trail Walker. I tried to position myself so that he wouldn’t be able to go next to me because he smells bad. I put my dry clothes on and took off my gross shoes and socks and then got myself some dinner. I had a packet of ramen. 


A guy called Gatsby was next to me and I was watching him make his dinner. He had tortilla with a rice side and some chicken in a packet. It looked delicious and I was looking at it longingly. The best thing happened when he says “hey do any of you want the rest of this chicken”. Moon instantly says yes me I want it all. I say I want some too. He says I’ll fight you for it. I say or we could share. Oh yeah, he says. I hadn’t thought of that…

I made myself a second ramen and added the chicken. It was so good. Not quite as good as that chicken burger was but it was good. Trail Walker arrives and he says Indoor Kid is just behind him. Yeah he made it! Trail Walker was really nice and gave up his chance at a night in the shelter to let Indoor Kid have it. 

I then got a second treat as Indoor Kid gave me a snack bar. It had nuts in it but I managed to eat it so fast I didn’t notice. I was so miserable hiking in that apocalyptic rain. Now I am dry and fed I am so much happier. The other people here are a guy called Pizza, who I think is German, and a section hiker. Gatsby has so far taken 21 zero days and had been on the trail since April 9th. Exactly one month more than me. He is doing it the luxury way! 

We are all in the shelter with our heads to the wall. Apart from Moon. He has his head the other way around. I don’t get why you would do that. 


Just as I was wondering where all the girls were one appeared. I didn’t talk to her because she went off to pitch her tent but she seemed to know Gatsby. So it’s me and 5 guys in here tonight which means there is a high snoring risk but at least I’m out of the rain. 

Of course now I’m at the shelter it’s stopped raining at the sun came out for a bit. I managed to get there at 6:30pm so I was 15 minutes under a 12 hour day. 

Watch the video!

For this trip I made a daily video diary which you can watch here: DAY 26