North Carolina Part I: Albert Mt., Franklin & Feeling Like a Thru-Hiker

Thank you for all the great feedback of my first quasi-advice post, Starting Your Thru-Hike: Georgia, and the Best Advice I was Given.  

by Brother Blood

If you’re feeling good about crossing your first state line of your journey, you should.

Before my journey, one former Thru-Hiker told me that if I made it three weeks, I would make it all the way. On the other hand, Zach “Badger” Davis in Appalachian Trials wrote that the first month is very exhilarating, and it’s the time after that which is toughest.

So who was right? There’s the rub…they both were.

Each of us is different. I could go on for hours about how if want to successfully thru-hike the A.T., here’s what you must do. But I’m not you…and you’re not me. By now, you should have a better idea of just what “your hike” is. Hopefully you are thinking about how to make the journey more enjoyable, and not worrying about where you are vs. where you thought you’d be this many days in to your hike. Let go of caring about miles! They’ll be places north to make up miles. Trust me.

But for now, the next couple of weeks are going to be awesome!

A little over 20 miles past the GA/NC line, you climb Albert Mountain. It will be the first real climbing you do. It will also be the first time you see a sign for a “bypass trail” that lets hikers avoid a tough section. Albert Mt. will challenge you. But at the top, is the first fire tower! Some like to camp at the tower to catch both the sunset, and the sunrise. I was told both are beautiful, and cold…really cold.

My confidence, and hopefully yours, was soaring after getting up Albert Mt. And in 2-3 days, you’ll hit a great trail town, Franklin, NC.

I didn’t plan on two zeros in Franklin, but after just the first 110 miles, my body needed it. After all, I was 50 years old. Trust yourself how many days you should take in Franklin. Forget what Bill Byrson said about Franklin being dull. It’s an awesome little town. I stayed at the Microtel Inn & Suites, in a room, not a “suite.” Most hikers stay at Ron Haven’s Budget Inn. Ron is a great guy, despite his lecturing about how great Ronald Reagan was.

Here’s some great places in Franklin:

Lazy Hiker Brewery – In 2016 they had a great bartender, I think named Kim, who was an Art teacher by day. If she’s still there, toss her a little extra tip and tell her Brother Blood thought she was pretty cool. But I’m sure she won’t remember me.

The Root & Barrel – This is kind of a fancy place, but don’t let that fool you. They are very hiker friendly, and there’s a great manager there named Robbie. It’s a quieter place, and a bit more expensive. But if you are a wine lover, like me, you’ll love it. Or a beer and Grand Marnier lover!! And go ahead and drop my name there….Robbie and I still keep in touch.

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Brother Blood enjoying a shot and beer at the Cork & Barrel…

The Rathskellar – A cool little coffee place, that also has draft beer!!!!  Great atmosphere and board games. Did I mention they have beer?

Happy Daze Donuts – Want to have some great donuts and be treated wonderful? Stop in to Happy Daze, they are sooo nice. Did I mention the Pistachio Cream Donut was amazing?

There are also two outfitters, one has a bar!

The coolest thing about Franklin for me, is that almost everybody takes a zero there. And it’s where I really, really started to feel like a Thru-Hiker.

I have fond memories of the town, which can be summed up in a small excerpt of my upcoming book:

Taylor started the trail two days after me, and had a pretty tough first week, which is not uncommon for hikers whose first backpacking trip is an attempted hike from Georgia to Maine. Her body was beat, and her knees were in need of some rest. I had rented a car, shockingly cheap on the weekend, and picked her up at the trail to come to town and rest up.

I gathered up our clothes and headed out to do laundry and errands and give her a couple hours of alone time in the motel room. That night, we had dinner downtown at the Bowery (now called the Root and Barrel Restaurant). It’s tough to make it with a somewhat upscale restaurant in a small town, there simply isn’t enough “upscale clientele” in a town of 5,000 people. But the Bowery did a great job drawing a balance between the well-to-do and people who earn their paycheck by the hour.

After dinner, we headed to the Rathskeller, a coffee house complete with a guy playing acoustic guitar and a shelf of board games, that also served draft beer! We were joined by Chia Pet and Pebbles, who, that day, turned 16. Chia Pet got her trail name because she grew alfalfa sprouts on the outside pocket of her backpack. She was a very caring person whose goal that night was to make sure that Pebbles enjoyed her sixteenth birthday. So we sat at a table for four and played Pictionary. We didn’t keep score; we didn’t roll dice; we just took turns picking categories and drawing funny images. We laughed as if the outside world didn’t exist; we felt like Thru-Hikers. We were happy.

Enjoy Franklin! And be proud. You’ll be surprised how many hikers have already dropped out, and what a bond you will have with those sharing your journey.

And relax…after Franklin, it’s just 2 or 3 days to Nantahala. But we’ll discuss that in my next post.

You can find me on Facebook using my given name, Alec Kohut, and my page:  Brother Blood’s 2016 AT Hike. My book: Brother Blood On the Appalachian Trail: Thru and Through. Will be released soon.

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