START: Cherry Gap Shelter, TN or NC
FINISH: Hot Springs, NC
DISTANCE: 85.5 miles (137.6 km)
DAILY AVERAGE: 28.5 miles (45.9 km)
TOTAL DISTANCE: 1909.6 miles (3072.5 km)
The Return of Malto:
From Cherry Gap shelter through to the Smokies I was joined by my friend Malto (see photo below of the guy in the cuben fiber space suit). He had driven all the way down from Hershey, PA, and the six days we spent hiking together represented the longest non-solo stretch of walking I had done since my old mate, ‘The Gambler’, accompanied me for approximately 600 miles on the Hayduke section of the Southwestern Horseshoe. There are not many people who could go from sitting behind a desk to doing 30 mile plus days on the AT in winter conditions, but Malto is one of them. An amazing hiker and a good friend.
Hot Springs: I think this may very well be my favourite town on the AT. Compact, decent resupply, good restaurants, great accommodation and, of course, the thermal pools themselves. The perfect location for my first Nero (almost a rest day; I think we arrived just in time for lunch) in many a week. A special thanks to Elmer at the venerable Sunnybank Inn for his memorable hospitality. In addition to providing hikers with one one of the finest, best value for money accommodations on the trail, he also makes the meanest rum-laced eggnog I have ever had!