Condition: Sunny

B & L: Power bar, trail mix, Albacore steak D: Catfish Tacos in Hot Springs! (plus Caramel Bugels and almost a quart of chocolate milk)

There’s two senses that changed after the brain surgery, I can smell like a hound and any peep in the night wakes me up, no matter how asleep I am (I think). At Roaring Fork Shelter last night, I heard what sounded like hound dogs all over the mountain side along with owls and mice in every direction. Interestingly, we met Mica in Hot Springs later and she said a man hunting bears lost a lot of his dogs a few days ago. Sir, you have a ton of dogs.

It’s National Hike Naked Day today and as I prepare to leave the shelter, there stands Berg and Littlefoot with their pack on, trek pole in hand and nothing else but underwear, socks and shoes. Awesome. At first I was a bit uneasy, but about ten minutes later hiking down the trail, I find myself shirtless, with an arrangement of huge leaves resembling the biblical Adam hiding his twigs and berries.(video: ). The first person we pass in our 3man parade was an elderly gentleman (60’s). Rounding the corner feeling a bit uneasy, I said “How’s it going?”. He glanced at me and the poof of leaves, and replied w a bewildered look, “Okay?”. He then passed Berg and by the time got to Litlefoot, he asked,”Is this hike naked day?”. About 4 mi later after hiking over “Buff Mountain” (ironic), Berg and I pass a wife & husband in their 60’s and their daughter (30’s)?) admiring the flowers in the field. As they looked up, the father daughter laughed, and the mother stared in disbelief. She said,”I don’t even want to know what’s under those leaves!”. As I write this it so happens that we pass a group of 30 in a young scout troop. “HIKERS COMING THROUGH!”, the scout leader at the tail end shouts. All 30 file the side Ike a crowd viewing our parade. As I pass, I say,” Did you know it’s Hike Naked Day?” They cheered on Berg, in only his athletic briefs, as he passed. Looking back,Ii see a slightly embarrased and dismayed look on his face. He says in his Carolina accent “Figures. todau would be the day we see 30 people.”. I now hear the fading cadence troop songs going into the distance as we charge stead with renewed vigor. I can only image the reception Littlefoot will get in only his plaid boxers. Good times. About 6mi left till Hot Speinfs. I can taste the catfish taco from Clear Springs Tavern already. Update: Correction, it’s the new place NEXT to the tavern! It has the tan/red wood with a large outdoor area to eat.

In Hot Springs now. Showered at the campgrounds, Berg and Littlefoot did some laundry, and we’re devouring the catfish tacos. So good!

The only place in town left to stay was “Elmer’s place”, the Sunnybank Inn. Turns out its an outstanding two story historical house that caters to hikers $20 per person and includes a healthy organic breakfast ($6 extra, worth it). The antique smell of the wooden house lined with books in shelves fills the air with an old-time feeling; a stark contrast to a modern digital world where a computer or TV is the center of attention.

I got a call from my cousin, Ellen, through Littlefoot’s phone at dinner and will stay with them tomorrow night. This will let me buy supplies for several big paintings and head up to Montreat on Sunday. I do want to return home, but feel this is a great chance to paint sweet, memorable spots from Montreat as well as revisit a couple of places along the AT that are within 2-3 miles from a trailhead.

Good day and a great way to finish the hike.