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Top Hat Tennessee
April 10, 2019

Little did I know within a day and a half of leaving laurel digger Richard Gragg’s, I would shiver in my bivy and saunter with a top hat and 2 mules in to Tennessee.

Bernie Harberts, Richard Graff
Richard Gragg: laurel digger, mountain man and arrow head hunter extraordinaire. By laurel digger, I mean he digs mountain laurels and sells them commercially. I spent the night at Richard’s in Gragg, NC. The experience warrants its own post. Thanks for the trout, mule digs and carpenter pencil Richard!

From Richard’s, the mules and I climbed up to the Blue Ridge and spent the night at Jimmy Hughes’ in Linville, NC. Linville is at 3,600 feet, enough to knock spring back a few weeks. The good news was that recent warmish weather was waking Jimmy’s orchard grass and blue grass field.

Bernie Harberts, bivy bag
The company and festivities were good. It got dark. Instead of pitching my tent, I rolled out my bivy bag, crawled in and gazed up at the Big Dipper. I heard a folding thunk and a heavy sigh beside my head and found that….
Bernie Harberts, mule sleeping
…Brick had similar notions. She’s working hard on this trip carrying our gear. I’m happy to see her resting up with a full belly of grass.

Deep in the night, I felt chilly. Brick breathed softly beside me. Cracker munched grass at my feet. My toes got cold. Then colder. Then sorta icy. The bivy, ordinarily the texture of soft cloth, felt like hard canvas. In the morning, I discovered I wasn’t going soft. We’d had a stout frost.

Bernie Harberts, ice, frost
Ice on my bivy bag. My bare feet were just below. No wonder they felt a touch chilly and damp.
Bernie Harberts, sleeping bag, sleeping mule
Cold conditions make for slow starts for man and mule alike. Here Brick soaks up some morning sun while I dry out my sleeping bag. Overnight, the condensation had soaked my old down bag. No problem. Half an hour hung on what used to be a pen for holding wild hogs dried everything up nicely.

By noon were were on the road. I saw a girl with an eye patch stare at me from an old house. I saw a lady with pansies who wouldn’t smile. I ate a hamburger that punched me in the guts after it went down. Or maybe it was the fries.

I passed a broken down Winebaggo that belonged to a guy that lives in the same zip code as me.

Bernie Harberts, mule, winnebago
Broke down.The wrecker driver told me he would tow this vehicle in one hour the same distance it took the mules and me 5 days to travel.

That afternoon, Cracker, Brick and I arrived in Tennessee. I donned my top hat and snapped the picture.

Bernie Harberts, tennessee state line
Welcome to Tennessee!

Good night from the Volunteer State.

PS: Big thanks to Jimmy Hughes who put us up in Linville. Also Johnny Ledford who’s hosting us tonight at his beautiful farm outside Roan Montain, TN.
PPS: Thanks, Trent, for showing Brick your ATV.

Posted Wednesday April 10, 2019 by Bernie
Where this story happened:

Welcome to TN. Missing you. One state down unless you cross back into NC. Keep the mules headed West and the wool socks on when the temps drop.

— Julia · Thursday April 11, 2019 · #

Embrace the cold! Too soon you’ll be wishing for it…
❄️☔️????

— Missy · Thursday April 11, 2019 · #

Congrats on crossing into Tennessee. I should be crossing into South Carolina Wednesday. I was wondering what you were using for cover. That bivy bag looks tiny.

Rev Johannes Myors · Sunday April 14, 2019 · #

Howdy Hans. The bivy bag IS tiny. Just large enough for me to squeeze in to. I also carry a tent with me for those rainy nights. When it’s cold, I sleep in the bivy bag inside the tent. Toasty. Congrats on being back out on the road my friend! You’ve certainly earned your way back. Keep in touch. Bernie

Bernie Harberts · Wednesday April 17, 2019 · #

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