We had a great time in Fontana Dam but was warned of some potentially poor weather in the Smokies. We waited for our maildrop, I put the camera away, admired the dam for a bit longer, then set off into our first national park not knowing what was in store for us.
We sweated pretty bad on the way out. Town is funny like that. You hike these massive mountains until you go downhill for a couple miles, soak up "town", resupply for coming days, then roll out weighing way more and now hiking uphill for miles to get back into the massive mountains. The thing about the AT and the Smokies is you must stay at the shelters. You gotta plan accordingly so that you make the necessary mileage to make it to that shelter. All of these shelters are high up the mountain, sleep 14, have a fire place on the north end, and pretty much open on one side.
Hearing these things, we head 4.5 miles to the ONLY tent camping spot allowed in the Smokies on the AT. Caveman hiked with us. We got the and made camp. Then the rain slowly moved in. That's our first real rain in our tent this whole trip. It rained all night. Suddenly it was really cold.
We awoke to rain which is tough. Tough to go get your food bag down from the bear line, tough to get water, tough to pick up camp, and tough to make yourself hike. But we did. Caveman did not. The wind really picked up. It was super foggy, wet, and slippery but we had an 11 miler day to try and keep up with Belch.
We made it to the first shelter to try and eat. Our fingers were barely working. I actually saw a coyote coming down the Trail as we pushed to the next shelter. He was gone in a flash. We really wanted to stay there but no, we me pushed forward. Terrible idea. That second shelter had 2 people. That third one we finally got to, 15. It was 7pm by the time we got there and the rain turned to freezing ice balls. The open end of the shelter was partitioned by tarps, thank god. We slept on the floor as other hikers started showing up. The next shelter was 6 more tough miles. One fella, Gerber, opted to sleep in his hammock where he had to continually knock off ice as it froze to his tarp. Brutal. We were discouraged and cold but somehow thankful for having the floor despite the mice running all around us. It dipped below 30 that night as the wind whipped hard.
Next day, more difficult to convince yourself to get up and hike. By about 10 we did. It snowed. April 23, it snowed. A lot. It was kinda exciting. It sucked that all our water froze and the trail was quite slippery. Nevertheless, 11 more miles to crank out.
We rolled up to a shelter with no tarps, not knowing if it was gonna be full, and aware that night was gonna be colder than the last. Good news. Belch, Saturday, and two dudes from Chicago who just finished a gnarly 4 day adventure in the Smokies, Tom and Mike. Plenty of room.
Tom and Mike turned out a lot of trail magic. Not only were they awesome dudes, they provided a good time in a harsh situation. Whiskey! Plus Tom worked the fire like I've never seen. It was freezing out. Literally. I was worried the camera was gonna get hurt, our noses have been cold for days, numb extremities, rough landscape with minimal views and suddenly the best fire(close to inferno) was created. For an hour and a half we were warm and felt human again. It was amazing. Sadly, it didn't survive the night and gave way to the most difficult temperatewise night on the trail. My feet were numb in minutes. Little if no sleep at all... Again. Brutal.
I got up at 8, started collecting firewood, seen a couple deer. We got it blazing again. So awesome. We counted our provisions and realized we need to make an unexpected stop In Gatlinburg. Bales Motel. 30 dollar room thruhiker special. Sweet! But we still had a lot of miles before town.
Clingmans Dome. One of the highest points on the AT. Maybe the highest? I forget. The weather felt like it was improving and we knew we had town coming so we were happy. We get to Clingmans were it's beautiful but the wind begins to really start picking up again. There were tons of tourists everywhere. Pretty views. When people heard we were thruhikers they wanted pictures with us and stuff. It was pretty crazy. Like celebrities.
We hitched into Gatlinburg where we couldn't believe the room for 30 dollars. Belch came and stayed. We found some other thruhikers and took it to Smokey Mountain Brewhouse. We partied pretty good. We deserved it. We had a blast. In fact we decided on a much needed zero day.
Easy day today. Shoneys this morning. resupplied. Caveman showed up. Dried our tents out. Laundry. Showered. So nice.
This place is weird. It's pretty much a theme park. Fudge and rides everywhere. One big cavity. But entertaining.
We are ready to hit the trail tomorrow and get to stepping. 200 miles down. We are now walking the NC/TN border. We get Chaser back Saturday or Sunday at the much anticipated Max Patch. Woohoo! Can't wait.
Sorry so long but it's been a wild last couple days. Snow. In April. Crazy.
Now it's raining and we aren't too sure how to get back to the Trail. Hopefully it'll clear up soon.
Boy loves the Smokies
The ground was brutal and in everybody's way.
Anywhere they could fit
Hammer slept on the bench. Peaches photo-bombing back there. He actually just left the Trail.
Found this guy
The crucial fire
Ultimatum, Sling Blade, and Creeper
Belch and Saturday
Take on Me
Belch working it
How we got home in the rain. Who Dattt!
- Spiral, Reverie, and CamDog
Location:Bishop Ln,Gatlinburg,United States