April 16- April 20: Zero Day, Northern Smokies, a Broken Phone, and a Party at Standing Bear

April 16 –

A leisurely Zero day in Gatlinburg, TN (it weird to call it a zero when I walked at least 5 miles by non-AT miles don’t count). I woke up, had breakfast, did laundry, showered, worked on my blog (y’all see the posts first, no worries), then I literally ran across a 4-lane road to catch a shuttle driven by a lady who “whoop whooped” everytime it hit a bump.

Went to the post office to mail something, hit up the grocery store, literally ate a pound of shrimp while waiting for the shuttle back, ate a pound of grapes after getting back. Emptyed an entire bottle of febreeze on my gear and cleaned anything that could be cleaned. Ate about 3 soft pretzels in cheese dip in a row. Packed my food for the next 32-40 miles of hiking (and posted about it). Worked to dry febreeze soaked items, eventualy stopped caring and left for the NOC (outfitter). Walked a few miles in my camp shoes in 80’F here because why not stink these back up before I even get on the trail. 

Got two free Ben and Jerry’s cones ( one tonight dough, one lemon sorbet). Bought an emergency hiking meal (rain / lightening is called for and I might hide in a shelter for an extra day). Also bought a new fuel, my other canister is pretty full but I don’t want to risk it. Saw three water snakes mating (well at least one was trying to mate). Got dinner, Ate more pretzels while soaking sore muscles in a bath.

I’m sure y’all are..noticeing a trend, lots of eating, cause when you are burning 5000 calories a day and only eating 1500-1800 calories your body hates you. All this eating didn’t make up for even a day in the woods. Eventually I will have to solve this problem. But for today I feel like a force-fed foie Gras goose


Anyway, I’m packed and ready to go. I found a light hat in a hiker box (to block the oppressive sun) otherwise I’ve worked to lighten my load by a few ounces by throwing away packaging and items that were almost empty. Time for sleep.

April 17 -Today’s Hike 10.9 miles, 2825 gain, 2575 loss. AT Mile 218.5

On the trail again. So today I hitched out of Gatlinburg and got dropped off at Newfound Gap. I would have liked to go back to Clingman’s but that would have required a second hitch. So I ended up skipping 7.7 miles – That section was significantly downhill (1000ft of gain 2700ft descent), which is to say, I wasn’t avoiding something hard. But now I’m carrying a lot of extra food that I had brought on anticipation of restarting there. Oh well, I’ve hiked that section before.

This actually means one positive thing for me, and that is that I get a privy tonight at Peck’s Corner Shelter (.4 miles off the trail with 300+ feet of gain/loss. The privy at Icewater Springs, where I would have stayed had I restarted at Clingman’s is ‘full’ and has been locked. The Ridge Runner I met earlier in the Smokies said it’s a big problem they aren’t exactly sure how they will solve. Apparently, it’s frozen underground and not murdering as it should – they’re working on solutions.


Anyway, let me tell you about my day. I ran into the lady with the bearbox stolen food bag again in the parking lot. We chatted a bit about our stays in Gatlinburg than set off on the trail. We were heading to the same shelter for tonight. It seems like most people sre doing about 10 miles a day at this point. Today’s hike was 10.9 miles, 2825ft gain. There was a nice side trail to Charlie’s Bunion (a beautiful view point). It rained on and off all day and the wind at times made it cold enough to require gloves.

 Then a ridgeline walk for most of the rest of the day. At one point I got to Bradley’s View – a 4ft wide flatish rock formation on the ridgeline and just sat up there enjoying one of the most stunning views of my life (and I even had it all to myself). I didn’t want to leave. You aren’t supposed to camp in non-designated areas but I really thought about it. Being high up I had signal so I sent some pictures and checked in with Flamethrower. The problem with being alone is you have no one to share things with, I really wanted to have somebody to gush about the view with. Oh well, maybe when Flamethrower gets back. 


So I finished my hike and walked the .4 miles and 300ft downhill to get to the shelter. Tomorrow, I’ll have to reverse the side trail trip. I’m annoyed that we had to come this far off trail and lose so much elevation – other shelters are right on the AT. What’s worse is that when in arrived I was told that the shelter was full and no decent flat spots were left, so i stayed near the top of the hill near the privy. And instead of heading all the way down to hang my food I just did a PTC for hang on a tree about 50 feet away. It should be a bit further but you gotta work with what you have. 


Speaking of food and water I was bad today. I got to camp with 1.5liters of the original 2Lwater I brought from town. So I walked 11 miles on 1/2 a liter. And then I barely broke into my snacks until dinner. I did eat and drink in town for breakfast I had 2 servings of eggs, a banana, 24 ozs of apple juice, and a bottle of 40g protein muscle milk. So it’s not like I’m running on nothing. But I still need to do better – I really never thought food was going to be my problem. 

For dinner I ate the heaviest things I could find in my bag -a repacked microwavable velveta mac n’ cheese ‘cup’ that had two cheese packets. then I mixed in pepperoni and bacon. I also ate 3 fruit roll ups (having deemed them too heavy for their palty 60 calories and a smallish un-iced honey bun that I bought in a six pack. That should have been at least 1000 cals, if not 1200. I have too much food with me I need to eat a lot more of it, quick.


April 18

Today’s- 13.4mi, 2933 ascent, 3484 descent

Today I woke up at Peck’s Corner shelter 218.5 and hiked to Cosby Knob (231.4) with a breif lunch intermission at Tricorner Knob (223.7). Today’s ailments include a painful left knee, sore soles of my feet, painful Achilles in both feet, and some muscle pain in my neck. Under normal conditions any of these would be enough to convince me to stay at home on the couch, but out here I walked over 13 miles, because it’s what you do.

Today was a beautiful day, the trail came out of the humid mossy pine forests and returned to a hardwood paradise complete with the rhododendrons I’ve gotten used to earlier in the journey. Temps were warm, and after discovering a small hole in my pant leg seam I opted to walk in shorts. So yes, the Smokies, known for their unpredictable weather and relentless cold. Never fell below 40’f and in fact on most days never below the mid-50’s even at night. So I’ve spent most of my days sweating, not shivering- but I’ll take it – better than life-threatening cold.


So I started my day by getting water. The spring was very slow, so i moved some rocks around and used a leaf to create a pour spout usually we use the long stiff rhododendron leaves but the weren’t at that elevation so I used a swamp cabbage leaf instead. they’re a lot softer, so I had to use extra rocks to support the leaf – it worked and a proper water spout was produced. I don’t like the taste of the water in this area, it’s not as crisp as the water elsewhere in the park. Oh well, it’s at least 5.6 miles till the next water and i need to drink this.

I’m moving by 9:15 am, a late start, there seems to be a few tents around still but it seems the vast majority of people are long gone. I pass Happy, who I had met the morning, as he is having second breakfast. But otherwise don’t see anyone until about a mile before I arrive at my lunch spot. That’s when I get passed by a young guy who didn’t even have poles. And it’s in the ankle breaker rock section – small highly moveable and twisty rocks that’ll threaten your ankles with every step.

I see him again when I arrive at camp. He wss at Icewater so by noon when we’re all eating lunvh he had already hiked 12 miles, the real stunner was that he was planning to walk 17 more today for a total of 29 miles. Whattttttt? I can’t tell you if he made it, but most people are in the under 15 mile range right now with a few faster folks passing through. I’ll talk more about those folks later. 

Let’s talk about lunch. The foodbag ladies were there, 2-3 people i didn’t know and two section hikers ( a woman and her elderly father). It’s clear that he is struggling. He’s asking to rest more following lunch (to digest) and she’s taking some of his gear and attaching it to her pack to lighten his load. I could see the frustration and also concern in her eyes. As I’m there Bean and Slinky arrive as does Happy. So we all hang out and eat. We also talk foraging amd edible plants – not much nearby is edible at the moment. Plus foraging isn’t allowed in a national park anyway. 

For lunch I have a chicken pesto peak fuel packet. It’s the good brand, but i may have overwatered it and I’m not a fan. I eat all 920 calories though. I need to feed my poor body. Then I’m off, after some debate over the right direction to go I’m back on the trail (for the record, I was right all along.

Eventualy, I pass the father/ daughter. Then they catch up to me as I’m hanging out at a place with beautiful views labeled as a helicopter pad – although it’s seen much better days and no ‘pad’ remains. At least it’s good to know that there would be an extraction point here in case of emergency. (otherwise this 32 mile stretch has no roads or crosss points).

A mile later I pass them again, this was shortly after the plane crash site (from 1984) where the scattered debris of a plantom II was left after the crash euchre killed both pilots.

Then I’m alone again for over a mile until I meet 50. 50 is hiking 20 miles a day, every day for the last 8 days – or so he tells me He also tells me that on his second day he hiked 34 mile (slack packed) from near blood mountain to Unicoi gap. Wow. He’s from the west coast and has visited the highest points in 49 states. Kahtadin will be his 50th. He’s also planning to sunmit on his 50th birthday in August. So long as he avoids injury he’s on target. I’m blown away by him. We chat for a bit. 

Still not enough drinking or snacking today but I ate a 900 calorie meal packet for lunch and then had mac’n’cheese for dinner (with added cheese, bacon, and pepperoni) I also ate a butterfinger and a fastbreak. All in all I probably only finished today with a 2,500 calorie deficit – progress!

April 19

Today was a quite a day: as some of Y’all may have gathered by my cell phone announcement last night, but I want to talk about the rest of the day cause it was a lot. 

So let’s start at the beginning. I wake up at Cosby shelter with a plan to go 10.9 miles to standing bear hotel (.2 miles off the AT). Mile 241.8 today has 1400feet of ascent, 800ft in a single mountain at the beginning of the day, the rest is mixed into the 4400+ feet of descent. descent is hard on your joints.


I wake up sandwiched between section hiker Nana and ridge runner Colin, the same ridge runner we had meet a few days earlier. Colin tells me i should not use febreeze on my gear because the bears will find it interesting… ok lesson learned. I’m just gonna have to go back to stinking out here. Still keeping my deodorant though. Anyway, folks start packing up and we see on the radar that the rain is starting. but should only last for an hour. I’m all f‐that I’m staying here and i do. About 70% of the folks put on rain gear and leave the other 30% stick around for better weather.  


I hang out with Multi‐function, colin, happy, bean & slinky. And i eventualy take off once the rain is gone. There is a cloud sitting over some of the mountain so i do get sprinked on a bit.


I make good time, but once i meet up and walk with Wiki I speed up. He’s doing x almost 20 miles today but already made most of those miles. We have a fun chat over all sorts of topics. At one point we realize we’ve met breif, but neither of us can remember where. As we’re walking my feet start killing me. I think my shoe is defective and a bit bent but he suggests my feet are swelling. It turns out that he was right. And losening my shoes actually helped a lot. We make good time. Then at one point right as we hit the first road outside the smokies i go to take my camera out andmy phone reboots and then does it again. Then the screen goes black and stays black. At first i thin k it could have overheated. It’s hot as heck today and I’ve also been sweating real bad. My second suspicion is that my phone got drenched. This is supported when i take the case off and it’s dripping wet inside. I’m not panicking yet. Wiki is a great guy and sticks with me to make sure i get to the hostel, he’s going to the same place. The hostel owner even gets me some rice for the phone. And i spend 50 of my $71 cash on a bunk house. They don’t take credit cards but would treasure venmo. I have no phone numbers.  


I borrow Smokies’ phone and get on Amazon to order a new phone, it can’t get here till the 24th or 25th (not happy). I order it ahead to hot springs, NC. BTW I’m so lucky i was able to remember my email password cause i ended up having to reset all the others (this causes more chaos tomorrow). Then i get om FB and updated y’all on my circumstances. I immediately log off and have no phone. Without my phone I feel so isolated despite the fact that I’m surrounded by friends. I also keep seeing things i want to photograph but can’t.  


I hang out with some folks including past year hikers that are here for the 4‐20 “earthday” party tomorrow. I spend the night dodging pot vapors (allergy) while hanging out with the group. Apparently tomorrow there will be a piñata full of pot, bear meat, a giant potluck meal, a band, etc. Not a bad day to be here. Still in struggling ‐ i just don’t know how I’m going to walk 30 miles through the woods to hot springs. I’m offered a ride, but i want to walk these miles, they include Max Patch But I don’t know elevation gain / loss profile etc. Slinky and beans offer to hike with me but I’m still not feeling great about leaving without a functioning phone. What if I bonk, I don’t want to keep them back or lose them.  

I go to bed at a reasonable time then wake up at 11. I climb down the bunk and go to check my laundry. I see Pink, Woodstock and a new arrival Sara. Woodstock and Pink have been promising to find me a ride to walmart for the next day. We chat for a bit then i go back to bed. At midnight I’m back retreiving my laundry then i go to take a shower since they ran out of hot water earlier. 


Once I’m done I return to talk to the gang. I refuse many offers of pot but eventualy have a whiskey shot thrust into my hands. I shoot it with everyone. There are laughs and hugs, I’m still freaked out about no phone and a 30 mile hike in the woods * kinda everything survival magazines tell you not to do. Sara eventualy says she or her husband, Giant‐ who is 7’1, can take me in the morning. I thank her and eventualy head back to bed. I’m not convinced this conversation will be remembered in the morning. It’s actually hot in the bunk house but i manage to fall asleep.


At one point i see some unexpected movement on the bunk next to me. A big face/head appears where it should not. I realize there is a large cat hanging out on the bunk bed next to me. The occupant has no idea and is a sleep. That turns out to be multi‐function’s bed. In the morning i tell him what happened and he said he thought he saw movement but assumed it was somebody on the otherside of the room. The only problem was there was no bed opposite his….. mystery solved. The kitty is very handsome. No picture though, because no phone. I am told he sprays though.

April 20th Standing Bear on 420

I spent my day saying “no seriously, I’m crazy allergic and will puke my guts out please stop passing me the joints”. I was offered 420 no less than 100x today, I don’t have a count for other substances other than alcohol, but not insignificant.

There were ‘adult baked goods and gummis’ a literal bear shoulder roast (bear is unexpectedly delicious), a rubber duck river race, a piñata full of weed (or so I was told), a kid’s piñata full of candy, tons of food, multiple fire pits, multiple smokers full of meat, music, great conversations, and thru‐hikers eating cake with our hands. Lots of locals and friends of the community, a small number of thru‐hikers and a larger number of prior year hikers.


Trail magic, yay Sara and pups, that got me a ride to Wal-Mart where I got a new phone (rice magic where my old phone recovered from being overly sweated on) and Wendy’s Fries on the way back. I also got a big ol’ bag‐o‐giant‐grapes.

I’m hoping to get back on the trail tomorrow but there is rain in the forecast so I’ll have to figure it out. 


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Comments 3

  • CryptcKat : Apr 30th

    Ok stranger-homie, I am about half deceased with laughter. Lucky you’re still alive with a MJ allergy at that one! There’s two sides to the hippie coin, when it comes to hostels there. You’re on the beard n bong side, at standing bear. Woods Hole is the clean tidy chakras and herbal tea, side of the coin. I’m sorry things worked out that was.

    • Caroline : Apr 30th

      The beauty of this adventure is ending up in places I’d never expect. And a hippie hostel for a 420 party is definitive on the unexpected list. I really did enjoy the company and the vibe though.

  • Russell N Wilkenloh : Apr 30th

    Good luck to you! Ga-Me 1983, Mouse Avenger, so I know what you’re feeling.

    I actually still backpack as much as possible, and the Smokies are a frequent sojourn. Last year I encountered the outhouse graffiti you pictured… still lmao!

    May the trail gods be with you!


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