By Richard Rourk
Uncle Johnny’s Nolichucky Hostel has welcomed back hikers eager to hit the trail following a year of pandemic shutdowns.
Hikers can be seen shuttling all around town as they make their way along the Appalachian Trail.
“We started seeing hikers come through as early as January, but now is the time we start to get busy,” said Uncle Johnny’s Nolichucky Hostel Caretaker Drew King. “This steady flow of hikers will last until the end of May or early June. That’s our biggest time of the season.”
King added, “A bulk of the hikers start out in March or early April and make their way up from Georgia aground this time until June.”
Even though Uncle Johnny’s Nolichucky Hostel is a haven for weary travelers tackling the full trek up the Appalachian Trail, they also act as a place where locals and day hikers can visit and gear up for their hikes.
“We offer everything for experienced or novice hikers to gear up and hit the trail with,” King said. “Last year was rough but we saw a lot more locals come through and buy gear and it was pretty awesome and it helped us get through the year.”
According to King, hikers come from across the United States. There are a few hikers who hail from outside of the United States.
“We don’t have too many visitors from outside of the U.S. but there have been a few,” King said. “There was a girl from Australia that got stuck here because of COVID-19 and really enjoyed it. We had a guy come through from New Zealand and a few from Great Britain.”
King confirmed that hikers are one big family.
“That’s what’s cool about it. You have people from every state and all walks of life bonding on the trail,” King said. “You hear a lot of cool stories every day around the fire. We usually have repeat customers. We try to keep it real chill for everybody.”
Hikers “Vulcan” from St. Louis and “Icebreaker” from Chicago recently made a stop at the hostel and took time to chat with The Erwin Record.
“I just got in today, and I will leave out tomorrow,” Icebreaker said. “I heard about Erwin and this hostel on the trail and it was some place I wanted to check out. That’s how you find out about a lot of towns and hostels, by word of mouth.”
For Vulcan, the stop at Uncle Johnny’s Nolichucky Hostel has been a blessing.
“I actually injured my shin in Flint Gap and I will be here until I am healed,” Vulcan said. “It’s been great here. Everyone is great. It’s awesome here. They even let me work for stay while I recover.”
According to King, Uncle Johnny’s Nolichucky Hostel welcomes weary travelers and locals alike.
“I encourage everyone to stop by to check us out and hang out for a little while,” King said. “Just call us or stop by and myself or the owner, Charlotte Shores, will be glad to help you out.”
Uncle Johnny’s Nolichucky Hostel also offers river tube rentals and shuttles.