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    Default Uncle Johnny's Hostel

    Comments, experiences, opinoins, good or bad related to Uncle Johnny's Hostel.

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    In '00, I stayed at Uncle Johnny's twice; the picture of me "hard at work" in the Gallery is his front porch.

    You will find a very well run, very clean and friendly "commercial" hostel here, immediately upon coming down the hill to the Nolichucky River: The hostel is literally at trailside, between the road at the foot of the hill and the River, which is just across the street.

    There are about three or so ways to stay here: The bunkhouse is the cheapest; there are several private rooms with anywhere from 1 to 2 or 3 beds; there is open space for tenting. The bunkhouse (didn't stay there) is very nice, friendly, with 25 cent videos. It's in the main building, which has a covered porch with tables and a hammock and a barbecue area. John has occasional burger 'ques, and doesn't charge. Fuel by the ounce, a small gear store, accepts maildrops, coffee, friendly. The "rooms" are in a separate building, and are new, with good mattresses (builtins) in bunk fashion, real doors with locks, and very nice. Shower/wash area is clean and nice, and an OUTSIDE dish washing area (smart idea). Tenting area is generally level, untreed (hammocks would be hard). John is open to groups, so occasionally there will be some Boy Scouts there for a night or two, but no problems. Small amount of road traffic (the hostel is bounded on 3 sides by roads) causes minor noise.

    John knows most of the other tourism related folk in Erwin; he made great arrangements for me and my daughter for rafting, when she came to walk with me on the trail, and when I had a minor gear problem, did a pickup from a large outfitter in Johnson City (about 20 miles away) for me, and only charged the cost of the part.

    Still has free bikes, but largely unnecessary: Erwin is the easiest town I've ever seen for AT hikers to hitch into and out of (downtown is about a mile away).

    When I was there, he didn't have internet access, but the town library is VERY friendly to thruhikers.


    Good value, friendly, everything you need in one place.
    "Thank God! there is always a Land of Beyond, For us who are true to the trail..." --- Robert Service

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    I stayed at Johnny's this May and really enjoyed it. The bunkhouse had free videos there and coffee by donation. There was fuel by the ounce, but some hiker had left a full gallon of whitegas. So, there wasn't any charge when I was there. Accomodations were excellent and I got a ride into Erwin to the pizza place by Johnny, a ride back from his wife, and a round trip to the gas station for beer from his wife as well. I think I paid $10. Very clean shower/bathroom area with very hot water (and lots of it). Some people complained about his slackpacking practices (i.e, charging more the next day for the same ride), but this didn't bother me a lick as I wasn't slacking and didn't see the need to start. I would highly recommend Uncle Johnny's to people going through Erwin.

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    I have one beef about Uncle Johnnys. I stopped there for a shower and to get laundry done last November. While I was there I sent home some extra things to lighten my load,after the package was already sealed I saw John had t-shirts so I bought one with the understanding that John would package it and send it to my home. Well, weeks later the shirt never arrived so I called John and he apologized saying he forgot to send it. To make a long story short, after many unreturned phone calls I never received my shirt which I paid for. I've heard good and bad stories about Uncle Johnnys.

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    I'll echo Chris's comments. In my case, Uncle Johnny even arranged for a ride to and from Trail Days in a motor home.

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    Why anyone would choose this place over the genuine warmth, friendliness, hospitality, and limitless kindness of Miss Janet's Place is an utter mystery to me. The overwhelming majority of the Class of 2002 made the deliberate decision NOT to stay here, for numerous reasons. I suggest the Class of 2003 take this into consideration when they plan their trips. Details available upon request, but really, all one need do is talk to anyone who hiked this year. If you don't go to Janet's, then stay at a motel; you'll be happier, you'll be treated better, and you'll still have your wallet when you leave.

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    Well, as a hiker who stayed at Johnny's this year, I have no reservations about recommending it to others for next year. From some of the posts that I've read in the past, it appears that one's experience at Uncle Johnny's is rather variable. Johnny fas fun, friendly, and helpful. The hostel was worth a lot more than the $10 I paid out. After all, I got to watch a fine Keanu Reeves movie while there. The only people that I met on the trail that didn't like Johnny's were the slackpackers or those who didn't stay there but had just heard about things happenning at UJ's. Perhaps his mood swings quite a bit and I just came through on one of the upswings.

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    Not to prolong this argument or anything, but this really needs to be said: I'm glad Chris had a good time there. I'm sure he wasn't alone. However, it absolutely cannot be denied that a great many folkds DID NOT; there were repeated unpleasant stories that came out of this place, and I'm not talking about hearsay, rumor, or hiker scuttlebutt. I'm talking about stuff personally known to me, personally witnessed, or things I read in registers by folks who supplied their real names, dates, etc. The long and the short of it is that most folks opted to stay elsewhere in Erwin this year, and will probably do likewise next year, (if they have any sense!) unless this place cleans up its act, especially as regards such matters as rudeness, incivility, arbitrary denial of goods and services on short notice, abusive language and behavior, price gouging, interfering with his competitor's business, lying outright to hikers and others about his competitor's business, and so on. Anyone who spent any length of time on the Trail this year knows exactly what I'm talking about here, folks, so let's stop with the delicate traipsing around. It's not necessary to pussyfoot around on this one. Here's the news: While there were absolutely people who enjoyed their stays at Johnny's just fine, the OVERWHELMING favorite for thru-hikers this year was Miss Janet's---I personally know of at least a dozen folks who spent their first night off the Trail at John's, and then moved to Janet's for their zero day----or days. They had many reasons for doing so. I know of NOBODY who did this in reverse, and left Janet's to stay at John's. To me, that says it all.

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    I am sure Baltimore Jack was in contact with many more thruhikers than I was this summer (since I only walked for a month), I did not meet anyone who was dissatisfied with Uncle Johnny's, except for slackpackers and people working on rumors. Of course, this doesn't mean that other people did not have a tough time there; I just didn't meet any of them. One possible explanation of this is that Johnny had a helper around during the few weeks before and after I went through. A SOBO hiker would had broken his collarbone and was spending his time mending by looking after the hostel. So, Johnny was not around as much as he might have been otherwise. Given my treatment at Uncle Johnny's, I just can't help but recommend that people stay there.

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    Not to belabor the point any more than necessary, Chris, but if you were out for a month and encountered nobody with anything bad to say about the place under discussion, well, excuse me for saying this, but it's evident to me that you either didn't encounter that many folks during your trip, or more likely, the subject wasn't discussed that often. If you're back in the area, check out the Curly Maple Gap register just north of Erwin; or, check out any number of thru-hiker Journals posted at www.trailjournals or elsewhere. You will see ample and repeated corroborative evidence of what I'm talking about here. Nobody is disputing that you enjoyed your stay there---I've made this point several times already. But you are choosing to ignore the incontrovertible fact that a great many folks didn't, and with all due respect, Chris, this was the studied opinion of folks who were out a lot longer than a month, who had the opportunity to stay at a great many hiker facilities, and were thus in a poisition to make fairer and more accurate comparisons between Uncle Johnny's place and any number of comparable businesses, NONE of which had anywhere near as many problems as UJ's.

    I think we've beaten this one to death, Chris. I'm glad you feel comfortable shilling for this place; I feel equally comfortable, based on my own experience and knowledge, in advising and suggesting that folks seek friendlier accomodations elsewhere. Lastly, I find it amusing that Chris makes prominent mention of the fact that during much of his stay, the owner of Uncle Johnny's was frequently absent or off the grounds. Perhaps there is a direct correlation to the level of courtesy and service one receives depending on the presence of the owner at the time of one's visit. In other words, that fact that Chris enjoyed his visit at a time when the owner of UJ's was not around to display his particular and peculiar forms of hospitality---well, maybe there's no coincidence that this is why Chris had such a ball there. Pretty funny if you think about it.

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    Not to prolong the discussion, but I going to anyway.

    Myself, I felt well treated at Uncle Johnny's. I have no beef with the man. On the other hand, I didn't go over to Miss Janet's to see what that was like.

    But, Jack, has done the trail about 6 times more than I have, so I'll yield to his experience on Erwin Tenn.

    And certainly, Jack is 100% correct that a lot of people complained about Uncle Johnny, and no one complained about Miss Janet that I was aware of, or read about.

    I'm sure there are reasons why some get along better than others, but let's not go there at this time.

    Chris, if you had a good experience, as did I, maybe we were the lucky ones, because a whole lot of hikers bitched about the place.

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    To add my 2cents, anyone that wants to stay in a hostel in Erwin and doesn't stay at Miss Janet's is missing out. I have not stayed at Miss Janet's myself and probably will not when I pass thru Erwin in March, since I prefer hotels when in towns that provide them, but I know in fact that I will go visit Miss Janet and hang out there for a while on my off day.

    I had the pleasure of meeting Miss Janet at trail days and spent a few drunken days around her camp LOL. Miss Janet is not just a hostel owner, she is very involved in the trail community and has given many hours of service to hikers for free over the years, with out so much as asking for a dime. She is friendly to everyone, even some of us obnoxious drunks that were around her camp at Trail Days LOL Just these facts alone would sway my decision to stay at Miss Janets, with-out even getting in to the nasty attitudes of Uncle Johnny.

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    I do not usually put down an establishment on the trail, as I find each hiker seems to walk away with a different feeling or prospective. I have to say though that of every hostel I stayed at and I hit most... johnny's was the only one where i left with a sour taste in my mouth. Just my opinion and all I'll say no more on the matter.

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    It appears that Baltimore Jack and I agree and disagree over the same points. Although I do think the point is done to death now, I would like to respond to some of the issues brought up in B.Jack's last post. Before launching into what I have to say, I should add that if in Erwin again, I will try Miss Janet's for diversity's sake.

    I prominently mentionned that I was only out for a month and Jack was out for the full haul. Hence, my range of contacts with people who had experience with Uncle Johnny's was necessarily more limited than B. Jack's. This isn't to say that I strolled down the trail with my fingers in my ears and kept my eyes shut at shelters. It simply stated a fact. I also mentionned that Johnny was around quite a bit less than he usually would be. I did these things for the purpose of fair discussion: To state clearly and without obfuscation some of the underlying facts of my visit to Uncle Johnny's. This way, people can judge for themselves what I have to say without worrying about hidden agendas on my part. I stated them as a way to take the view of the other side of the argument.

    Concerning www.trailjournals.com. I have read many of the journals from the 2001 thru hikers and some of the 2002. Yes, there are some people who have problems with Uncle Johnny. There are also people who have a fine stay, like I did. We all, however, must admit that the trailjournals.com is hardly a representative sampling of people passing through Erwin on longer hikes. I did not stay at Curely Maple Gap, but made a point at stopping by all the shelters I passed to rest and eat. I would read the registers while I rested. I must not have read back far enough to get to the slew of entries mentionned by B.Jack. While they may have had terrible stays, I did not nor did anyone I come across (again, with my provisos of previous posts). I certainly did not have the delight of sampling all of the various hostels along the trail, but I think I would recognize a bad stay from a good one without such experience.

    Finally, I am not shilling for any place or anyone. I am not an agent for Uncle Johnny. I am not under the pay of Uncle Johnny nor am I hoping to dupe anyone into staying at Uncle Johnny's inorder to profit by some sort of swindle. That is, as I am sure Baltimore Jack is aware, what the verb "to shill" means. If some one has evidence otherwise, no one would be happier than I to see it. I suspect that "shill" was not used according to the meaning of the word. B. Jack gives his posts the title of advice. I would like to believe that I advise, rather than swindle, which I seem to be accused of doing.
    Last edited by chris; 10-16-2002 at 14:24.

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    Default Move on

    OK, enough said. Let's move on to more productive things.

    Moderator, can we close this thread?

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    While I understand why Peaks suggests closing the thread, it should not be....

    Uncle Johnny's is a very obvious hostel along the trail, and what is obvious from Jack's and Chris' posts is not only that there are differences of opinions, but that this hostel, like others, changes in quality and style over time (which is why, in '00, there were virtually no negatives about it, to my knowledge, in trail registers, while there were many positives). Equally, I suspect/hope that this thread will come to Johnny's attention and, rather than get angry/defensive, he will look at it as a way to realize that there are some things he needs to do to keep the respect of the hiker community. Lastly, it needs to stay open as a thread so that any future changes - for the better or the worse - are known to the rest of us. Those are good reasons, and this thread must remain to serve this forum's members on an ongoing basis.

    That having been said, I both know - repeat, know - that Chris isn't on anyone's take, and I am sure that all the rest of you know that as well. And I am equally certain that Jack did not mean that, but was being his usual occasionally overly-blunt self, with no intention of offending. And so we can, I hope, continue to see comments about the pros and cons of Uncle Johnny's Nolichucky Hostel, and let the readers decide for themselves if they wish to stay there or the apparently delightful Miss Janet's (or both!) as they come down the hill to Erwin.

    The Weasel
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  17. #17

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    I stayed at Uncle Johnnys in 2000 during my thru-hike and had a fine time. I had friends who had unpleasant experiences with the proprietor. That wasn't my experience.

    I also had the pleasure of meeting Miss Janet as she was running shuttles at Uncle Johnnys that spring. She is a wonderful person, and I enjoyed my time with her. At Trail Days in 2001 she not only remembered me, but rememberd that I had 4 daughters and asked about them. That really impressed me.

    In life, I try to judge people baed upon my own personal experiences. My experience with Johnny was pleasany, but thankfully, money was not a central issue for me.

    Miss Janet is amazing, and I would love to stay at her place if I was in Erwin.

    Just my .02 based upon my season on the AT.

  18. #18

    Default Personal experience

    While I realize this thread has been running for awhile, I just came upon it and I must comment from my own personal experience May 29th at approximately 11-11:30 am. Here's the scenario:

    I came out of the woods after 5 days from Hot Springs, where I had left the trail for Trail Days followed by my father-in-laws death in Pittsburgh. I was in need of a phone to call my husband and find out how things were after I left there, the funeral, etc. It had been a trying 5 days hiking alone, not many thru-hikers around me. I see U.J. place, I see a soda machine, I see a phone on a deck. I want to sample all of these. I also wanted to meet the man and make up my own mind, despite what I had been hearing last winter on the 'net. He came over immediately and introduced himself, and my first reaction was "car salesman, why is he trying to sell me on staying here?" I can smell a hard sell a mile away. And that's usually as far as I walk to leave one behind. Without going into the banter of back and forth, the name Miss Janet was brought up immediately, I told him I really didn't know what I was doing, where I was staying, or even IF I was staying in town. I had a mail drop and that was as much as I knew. All this is true, I really hadn't made up my mind how much of Erwin I was going to avail myself of. He approached me 3 times and when I wouldn't commit to "yes, I'll stay here and give you my first born" (sarcasm, sorry, can't help it) he YELLED at me, pointing a finger "if you want to support her illegal hostel, then get the hell off my porch".

    I did. Crying. On the bridge, where a fellow thru-hiker found me. I did absolutely 100% nothing wrong, I hadn't called Miss Janet from "his" phone, nor was I going to. I'm not STUPID. I wanted a cold drink, a place to sit and a phone to call home. My indecision ratcheted up his mood, I could see him getting madder and madder. I threw my hands in the air and said "all I'm doing is hiking the Trail" NO ONE should ever be treated like this, for no ****ing reason. I'm getting pissed just thinking about it again. This was hands down, the WORST treatment I received on the Trail. This isn't hearsay, it happened to me. And by chance, Chris, you weren't the Chris there that day, Tom in the Woods spoke to you on the bridge and introduced me to you as you were trying out one of U.J.'s lightweight packs?? If so, surely you heard all of this. No one else on that porch came to my defense or even acted like this behavior was out of the ordinary. It was deplorable. I walked across the bridge and prepared myself to walk the 4 miles to town. Luckily 3 river guides pulled up and drove me in where I was welcomed with open arms, no questions asked. I never told her the story, but she heard about it and APOLOGIZED to me for his actions.

    That's it, I'm done. You can read about it in my journal as well. He wasn't drunk, but if he's truly a generous person, then he's got one helluva split personality.

    Bluebearee
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    Sorry, different Chris. I certainly would have left Uncle Johnny's had I been there. I was in Erwin on May 22. Digger and Giggler were there with me, along with a few slackpackers, whose names I forget. The slackpackers were moving to Miss Janet's because Johnny was charging them more to slack the second day than he did the first day.

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    Blueberry ---

    Your story is one that shouldn't stop here, and I am glad you put it in this forum; it tells a far different story than the one that I experienced 2 years earlier at Johnny's. But I'd also like to ask you to forward your story to the ALDHA ("American Long Distance Hiker's Association), which prepares the Companion based in large part on hiker information. They NEED to know about what happened to you, and since it's not merely a "this is a horrible place run by a horrible man and blah blah blah" type of rant but one with - as Admin so correctly notes "has facts", I think it would be given serious consideration by ALDHA, with at least a contact by them to Johnny's. Wingfoot/Trailplace should also be informed for his Handbook and On-Line Guide.

    Some of our reports of trail conditions, hostels and shelters are ones found in the guides, or aren't all that critical, or go beyond what their limited space permits. But trail problems MUST be reported to the appropriate place: If it's a trail defect or shelter in disrepair, to the local maintenance club. If it's about a provider who is more-or-less recommended in one of the Guides, the ALDHA and WF need to know since so many of us rely on those guides for making choices. I know from experience that such writers pretty much ignore the "I've heard from a lot of people that this is a really crummy place" type of junk. But specific reports like yours are viewed pretty seriously by such writers.

    If you need addresses for either ALDHA or WF, let me know. Sorry for the bad experience. Can't be excused, no matter how it can be explained.

    The Weasel
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