AT Section Hike: Erwin, TN, to Sam’s Gap

Last weekend, my son and I started out on a different hike than what we thought…

On a past Tuesday, we drove to Hot Springs, NC, where we spent the night in the bunk room at The Laughing Heart Hostel. Of course before laying our heads down, we walked down to The Spring Creek Tavern for some dinner, and a few beers for myself. After walking the “trail” back to the hostel, we got settled in and tried to get some rest before our 5 am alarm went off…

IMG_2033 IMG_2040 IMG_2037 IMG_2035 IMG_2043Founder’s Nitro Oatmeal Stout… very awesome!


IMG_2047 IMG_2046 IMG_2057It was hot, and as nice as the bunk house at the hostel is, I learned that if given a choice, to go with one of the private rooms (a small fee for the upgrade) since they have air conditioners in them… It would have made that night a bit more restful for the both of us… Despite the long night though, 5 am still came around. I crawled out of the hot, sticky bed, grabbed a quick shower, threw on my hiking clothes, and went to wake my son so he could get ready. While he was getting ready, as quietly as I could, I repacked my backpack (there was one other hiker in the bunk house that night), and then we headed out to meet our shuttle driver…

IMG_2059 IMG_2061The nice thing about Hot Springs, NC, is that it is small, so we were able to walk everywhere, including to the Bluff Mountain Outfitter’s shop where we met our driver that morning (which turned out to be Daniel, one of the owners of the outfitters shop; very nice man, and was fun to talk with on the way!) We even stopped in at a little gas station to grab one last drink before hitting the road… And as it happens, we timed it just perfectly walking up to the outfitters, as Daniel pulled up only moments after we got there!

After paying for our ride, we all climbed in his van, and made our way down the road to the Nolichucky River, where Matthew and I would start our hike…

IMG_2062Our backpacks at the start of our hike. Mine is the ZPacks Zero XS on the left, and my son’s is the ZPacks Zero Small on the right. Both packs weighed in just over 12 lbs!


IMG_2067 Matthew’s ready to hit the trail! We were anticipating rain, so he started out wearing the ZPack’s rain kilt. We each had poncho’s in our packs.

IMG_2069 As am I… Notice the MLD Light Snow Gaiters… they were awesome!

IMG_2070 Our initial plans were to hike to Big Bald that day…

IMG_2071Our first views that morning… looking north into Erwin, TN.

IMG_2072 IMG_2075Looking down onto the Nolichucky River.

IMG_2077 IMG_2083 IMG_2086 IMG_2088 IMG_2089We dubbed this the “Looking Tree.”

IMG_2093 IMG_2094 IMG_2099Really enjoyed the Mountain America Jerky and Babybel cheese!

IMG_2102It was a lot steeper than it looks…

IMG_2103Just below High Rock… He really wanted to climb this rock wall…

IMG_2104 IMG_2107 IMG_2109On top of High Rock!

IMG_2111 IMG_2113The side trail leading up to High Rock.

IMG_2114After changing our itinerary, we stopped to set up camp for the first night at Whistling Gap Campground.  Once we got everything set up, we went about cooking… Matthew had some Ramen with lots of dried vegetables, which he cooked in a Sidewinder set-up.

IMG_2115 IMG_2116Our beds for the night…

IMG_2118 IMG_2119Tuna & Avacado Sammies! They were awesome… I love avocados…

IMG_2121We even had a little fire…

IMG_2123Properly hung bear bags!

IMG_2125Matthew was ready to start chillin’ in his hammock…

IMG_2130On day 2, I tore camp down around Matthew while he relaxed. We didn’t have far to hike this day, and I figured he was enjoying laying there… eventually though he had to get up so we could brush our teeth, prepare breakfast, finish packing, and then continuing on…

IMG_2139I have no idea what this means…

IMG_2141 IMG_2143 IMG_2145Looking out near the top of Little Bald… Excellent views!

IMG_2146 IMG_2148 IMG_2150 IMG_2151 IMG_2153 IMG_2155 IMG_2156 I have no idea who carried these chairs up…  and no, we didn’t even use them…

IMG_2157We didn’t use these socks someone left either…

IMG_2158The privy!

IMG_2159 IMG_2162Coming out to Big Stamp.

IMG_2164 IMG_2169Our first views of Big Bald, in the background. This was Matthew’s (and probably mine) favorite part of the hike… Love these open, rolling mountain tops!

IMG_2171 IMG_2176 IMG_2205Matthew and I standing atop Big Bald.

IMG_2178 IMG_2180This has been my favorite jerky from Mountain America Jerky!

IMG_2181We took a snack/water break at Low Gap Campground, and then I loaded up on water to carry to our (dry) camp for the night.

IMG_2183 IMG_2184Street Gap (IIRC).

IMG_2188Labeled as “meadows” on our maps. We set up camp at the top of this meadow.

IMG_2189 IMG_2192Looking NOBO from our camp above the meadows, back onto the meadows.

IMG_2193Looking SOBO towards Sam’s Gap.

IMG_2195 IMG_2196 IMG_2197

IMG_2201Looking farther NOBO from the top of the meadows. I believe that the highest point in the picture is Big Bald, but I could be wrong.

IMG_2208I took my Sawyer bath and felt so much better… 🙂

IMG_2211 IMG_2212Pepperoni Pasta Salad… A very good trail meal: easy to make, inexpensive, tastes wonderful, and it’s no cook… so a great option for these middle of the summer, hot hikes.

IMG_2213This little guy kept following us all around camp…

IMG_2203Me, just chillin’ in my hammock after eating…

IMG_2216 IMG_2217 IMG_2218At the end of the day, we ended up breaking camp and hiking out to Sam’s Gap that night rather than the next morning. It just so happens a friend was in the area and offered to pick us up, which meant an earlier shower, plus less money I had to spend on the shuttle! So a huge shout out to our new friend Benny. It was fun getting to meet him on the ride back to our car at Hot Springs. It’s great getting to meet other hikers such as him on these trips!

So, as it turned out, our hike took us from Erwin, TN to Sam’s Gap… Quite a bit shorter than we had intended (back to Hot Springs) but we both had a really good time. I (and hopefully he) will cherish and remember these father/son times for the rest of our lives. The weather was a little hot, but otherwise perfect. All in all though, it was a good hike…

Thanks for stopping by!


About Stick

My blog is essentially a record of my hiking career. Through it, I, and others, can see how I have evolved from a heavy weight backpacker, to a smarter, more efficient, lightweight backpacker. Through the use of video, still photos, and of course writing, one can see my progression, as well as check out some of the places I hike, and not to mention some cool, lightweight gear options. For me, my blog is a journal, but for others, I hope that it is an interactive learning tool to aid them in their own progression towards lightweight backpacking.
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21 Responses to AT Section Hike: Erwin, TN, to Sam’s Gap

  1. Pingback: Back on the trail again…finally! | Stick's Blog

  2. Matt says:


    Great to read about your hike with your son. Keep up the good work. Happy trails!


  3. Warren Stanford says:

    Great photos Stick, looked like you had fine weather and a great time with your son.


  4. Impressed with the photos even taken with the iphone 6!! Just been reading about hammock camping and it’s good to have some more realistic expectations on sleeping in one before giving it a go. I was hoping for a fabulous post gear talk review that tends to follow a trail report but I understand life can be busy with kids’n family. That section of trail does look beautiful. The trail will always be there, keep on keeping on. 🙂


    • Stick says:

      C Nugget,

      Thanks for stopping by, and glad you enjoyed it. I think the photos and video turned out ok, but I like my regular camera better for photo’s… I have seen some really good photos from iPhones, but for some reason I can’t seem to get the same thing… I just don’t have the eye… 🙂

      As for the PHGT, no, I won’t be doing one of those. I need to post one last post though informing others that I will be inactive for a long time, as well as some companies that keep emailing me…

      As for hammock camping, on this hike, I realized that it is just not for me. I need more freedom to move around at night while I sleep, and hammocks don’t do it for me. OTOH, I have decided (once I can get back to hiking… it’ll be a long while) that I want to put together a very lightweight hammock and suspension (the one I used on this hike was around 9.2 oz… I would like to get closer to 7 oz total, which I think I can) and just throw it in my pack, in addition to my tent. This way I could throw the hammock up for breaks/lunches and even at camp to relax in, but then crawl in my tent when it’s time to go to bed… For me, I think that this is the best option for me…

      Anyway, thanks for keeping up with my blog, I appreciate the support! And until next time, happy hiking!



  5. Sarah says:

    I have a bag of that jerky to review soon 🙂 Yum!


    • Stick says:


      I have been really happy with all that I have had so far! And of course, I really enjoyed the meals that I tried from your site too! 🙂



  6. Josh camp says:

    I haven’t seen the video yet, but what did you guys think of the hammocks?


    • Stick says:


      I talked a little about it towards the end of the video, but for me, I don’t plan to use hammocks for sleeping in any longer… They just don’t offer the freedom to move around that I need when I sleep. I tend to lay on my back at first for a while to get comfortable, but then want to roll on either side for a bit before finally drifting off, at which time I usually end up on my right side. In a hammock, this is just too much work for me… BUT, I will get a really lightweight hammock set-up (hammock, suspension – including tree straps – and stuff sack) and throw it in my pack in addition to my tent. This will allow me to relax at camp, or even for lunch stops, in the hammock, but crawl in my tent for some good sleep!

      Also, just so ya know, this wasn’t my first time sleeping in a hammock. I have spent around 10 nights in a hammock in the backcountry… but this time was the final time for me…



  7. milligan308 says:

    I will admit I watched the YT video before reading your blog, I get a better feel for your hike checking both out, I understand how it is and how much time it takes to do either or both and I hope your time free up so that you can get back to it.
    I have found for myself that the best made plans never work out the way you expect them too, I really appreciate your efforts and sharing your experiences with gear and on the trail.
    Chad, Thanks. atb Don


    • Stick says:

      Thanks Donny for checking out my blog/videos. I have appreciated your feedback and support over the last couple of years! So, till next time… happy hiking!



  8. Richard says:

    I just used bluff mtn outfitters this past Wednesday evening with my son for our hike from davenport gap to hot springs….showered at laughing heart hostel…best $10 I’ve ever spent. We finished mid day Saturday. It was a great hike and most miles my 9 year old has done…back to back 13 mpd was enough for him! Are we there YET!! Damn it was hot!!! Best part of the trip was walking up on a timber rattler on the trail. I had to move it with my trekking pole. scarred the sh!! out off us…dog included! I now realize why I like a fully enclosed shelter and hiking in cold weather!


    • Stick says:

      Congrats on the hike with your son.! And yeah, in this heat, it makes the hikes a bit rougher. We didn’t really see any wildlife on our hikes, other than birds and squirrels.



  9. Martin Rye says:

    Nice time outside with your son. Good post and thanks.


  10. Steve Carothers says:

    Hey Stick…as always…great video and great pictures. Glad to see your son Matthew with you. I hiked and camped up on Bald Mountain about 20 years ago. I never saw such an awesome patch of ginseng in my life as I did on the trail leading down from Bald Mountain. It got very cool up there that night even in July. I have really appreciated following your blog over the years. Thanks for bringing the outdoors into my home…Steve…


    • Stick says:

      A few years back my wife and I stayed on the top of Max Patch, and it was of course a bit cooler, but so worth it. The night was clear, so we could see stars for as far as we could see. I would imagine that Big Bald would be the same way… And we actually were supposed to stay on the top of Big Bald the first night, before our plans changed… it was a good thing though as there is no where to set up a hammock on the top of Big Bald… lol…



  11. Benny Braden says:

    Those are some awesome photos. You really captured the trail and the awesome father and son time. Once again I’m glad I got to spend some time with you and was able to help. It was perfect timing.


    • Stick says:

      Thanks Benny, glad you enjoyed it. Was a joy getting to me with you, and of course the ride was very much appreciated! Till next time…



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