Sometimes you need to get off the trail... to resupply, eat a nice meal, call home, get new gear, etc. In or near town, most hikers stay at a cheap hostel. These usually consist of a room full of bunkbeds and a shower. Often attached to the owner's home, they each have their own personality and charm and are one of my favorite parts of hiking the AT. Here are the ones I've stayed at so far:
Standing Bear Farm - http://standingbearfarm.com/
(I already posted a bunch of photos here)
This is your first opportunity to get a shower and some snacks after a long trek through the Smokies. It isn't near a town, but the owner, Curtis, will take you down to the gas station for a beer run.
Elmer's Sunnybank Inn - Hot Springs, NC
Elmer, the owner since 1978, cooks vegetarian meals for his guests at his 1875 victorian home. It isn't really a hostel (the rooms are actually really nice) but it is priced like a hostel. Elmer used to have Vizslas, so he was eager to meet Kooper. Here he is eating his yummy breakfast with us:
Uncle Johnny's Nolichuky Hostel - http://www.unclejohnnys.net/
Uncle Johnny and his crew will shuttle you around Erwin, TN (or go pick you up some KFC) and sell some basic gear. They also have free wifi, what else could you ask for? I forgot to take a photo, but it's your standard bunk room fare. Most everyone hangs out all day on the nice large deck.
Greasy Creek Friendly Hostel
I didn't stay here, but I felt is was worth a mention. I took a half-mile side trail to Connie's hostel in hopes to get some food for lunches/snacks. No one was there, but there was a phone and a note that she would call (she was out shuttling people and getting supplies or something). So I waited about 30 min on the porch as I watched Kooper play with the cat. She did call and gave me the number for a restaurant a few miles away that would bring me a hot meal. (I ordered chicken fingers & fries, which turns out is not the best thing to eat right before a hard day of hiking).
Mountain Harbour B&B/Hostel - http://www.mountainharbour.net/
I stopped here in hopes to get a ride into Roan Mountain, TN for lunch food. I got the ride to the store, and then another ride to get a BBQ restaurant. I decided to stay at the hostel (which is in the upper finished part of a barn, above the horse and goats) to experience the famous breakfast. It was fantastic!
- near Hampton, TN
When I walked up the road to this hostel, I was greeted with a bowl of salad and blueberry muffins. Enough said.
Ok, I'll say more. This hostel has everything you need (except wifi)... bed, laundry, shower, food, phone, and a shuttle to town all for a suggested donation of $4. Built on to the back of Bob People's home, Kincora is probably the most-loved hostel as evidenced by the walls and ceiling covered in hiker thank-you cards. Bob is sort of a legend... the Chuck Norris of the AT (due to his generosity). Here he is telling one of many stories to us guests:
Hikers Inn - http://www.hikersinndamascus.com
This is where I am right now, typing this post. I initially decided to stay here because it was the only place with a TV I could use that wasn't an expensive B&B. The owner, Suzanne, let me watch the Lost finale in her sunroom. She also gave me a ride to the grociery store in her Mini Cooper and fed us strawberry shortcake with ice cream. Doesn't get any better than that right? It does. The bunk beds are great with clean comfy linens, pillows, and access to a power outlet. Did I mention... free wifi! Perfect place to take a zero-day.
Also of note is that Suzanne is trying to sell the place. A cute old house, right on the main street of a small town, making a few bucks giving hikers a great place to stay... I think everyone who hikes the AT dreams of opening up a hostel. If the Hikers Inn is still for sale when I finish, it will be something to consider...