02 Dec How A Hiker Found a Business He Loves In Unicoi County
More than 3 million people hike on the Appalachian Trail (AT) each year according to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. From Georgia to Maine, only about 3,000 make it through the often arduous 2,194.3-mile journey. Some of the most challenging of those miles are the 51 found in Unicoi County.
For Navy veteran Terry Wise, the challenge of proving himself as real hiker led to discovery of a lifetime. “I met so many great people along the trail, and some mentioned a handful of hostels along the route where they could sleep in a bed, take a hot shower and recharge for a day or two before continuing their hike,” says Terry. “I heard of a good one in Virginia and one in Tennessee and started thinking about buying one or starting a new hostel along the trail someday. I fell in love with the one in Unicoi County.”
Jody Shores first built the Unicoi County hostel along the Nolichucky River back in 1998 and established it as a resting spot for thousands of AT hikers each year. When Jody died, his wife took on the task of operating the facility until Terry Wise made her an offer to buy it and fulfill his new mission.
“My aim is to provide a comfortable place of rest, solid options for resupply, and some fun. I know what can be helpful during those few hours that hikers must reset before moving on,” Terry explains. Since cutting the ribbon to Uncle Johnny’s Hostel in March of 2022, he’s made enhancements to add to the comfort for weary hikers.
Wise has expanded the outfitter section of the hostel of hiking equipment, made improvements to his six cabins and bunk house as well as pumping up the supply of hot water for his showers. He has broadened the assortment of freeze-dried meals to replenish backpacks and regularly holds some special events for his guests.
“I really lucked out by buying the hostile when I did. Through COVID, many hikers postponed their planned trek until better days. I also think that for many, having to shelter during the pandemic gave them a new passion for experiencing the outdoors. Business was crazy good this summer, and I look forward to many great years ahead as a business owner in Unicoi County,” Terry says. He’s also serious about supporting his fellow businesses by operating a shuttle service for hikers who want to venture into Erwin for other amenities.
“We all welcome Terry to our business community,” says Austin Finch, Unicoi County’s Director of Economic Development. “The value of his trust in our community is appreciated greatly, because some of the hikers will also visit restaurants and other shops in the Erwin area that are just four miles away. Outdoor adventure is very important to our local economy.”
If you are a hiker with AT prospects you will love real, wild challenges within Unicoi County’s. Learn more about the AT in Unicoi County with the document available here