Ensign Cowell Shelter to Free State Hiker Hostel (This Hostel has since closed!)
Only about 1 mile hiking.
It was a cold night in our tents and no one wanted to get out of their sleeping bags! Having grown up in Florida I still dislike cold weather but decided to just do it and get up. Over the years I have learned that the best way to encourage cold campers to get out of their tents is to make them something warm to eat. I fired up the stove and heated water for hot chocolate and oatmeal. We bring individual packets of Starbucks Double Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix on all our cool weather trips. It is rich and chocolatey and a perfect morning camp drink. I also bring Starbucks Via Ready Brew Italian Roast Extra Bold Instant which I add to the hot chocolate and make a poor man’s mocha. We packed up our tents, ate breakfast and decided to hang out at the shelter fire for a little while to wait for the sun to warm the trail up.
The boy scouts were still there and we visited with them for a little while. From them we learned that it was going to be an even colder night since their leader was looking it up on his phone. At this point I was getting worried because the kids had low spirits and I didn’t want them to hate this experience. Looking through the Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers’ Companion, we realized that there was a hiker hostel about a half mile away. Dave and I decided to change course and stay there for the night since the weather was supposed to be so cold. We would continue our hike when the weather warmed up the next day. We told the kids our plans and they were ecstatic! We played cards by the fire the rest of the morning and then headed to the Free State Hiker Hostel. It was located on Wolfsville Road about a quarter mile from the trail. (Edit- I have learned that the Free State Hiker Hostel is now closed. Bummer! It was such a great hostel!)
Imagine their excitement when we arrived and the hostel owners were a family with kids! We took warm showers and ordered Mexican takeout and then spent the afternoon playing games. This is one of those examples of how if you just go with it, good things happen when you don’t expect it. This day is a wonderful memory for our family. We also had the added bonus of being able to repack Sophie’s things and leave the things she wouldn’t need for the next couple of days at the hostel to pick them up when our hike was over.
The Free State Hiker Hostel was such a great place to stay. The owners include a former thru hiker and you can tell that they understand what hikers like and need. There’s a laundry to use, hot showers, a clean bunk room and snacks for sale. We fueled up, cleaned up, rested, and got ourselves ready for the next day of hiking.
Have you gotten to hike on the Appalachian Trail? I’d love to hear about it!