Bye Bye Smoky Mountains

We are taking a much-deserved rest day in Hot Springs,  N.C.  For those who have not been to Hot Springs, it is a town of some 520 people where the Appalachian Trail cuts through the middle of the town.  The trail to here was sometimes challenging, however we persevered and have conquered what some say is one of the most difficult, yet beautiful parts of the trail.

And We’re Off

When we last posted we were in Gatlinburg, TN, where we were taking a day off after being run off Clingmans Dome by bad weather.   Due to some road closures which prevented us from going back to Clingmans, we decided to jump ahead about 40 miles north and walk south to cover those miles.  The fact that we would end up climbing Clingmans Dome, the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi. somehow escaped detection.  After being dropped off by Stripper’s husband Don at Davenport Gap, we hiked to Cosby Knob shelter.  There must have been a convention of hikers in town as the shelter, all the tent spots, and just about every nook and cranny of the surrounding area was jammed with tents.  We settled on a site that we knew was not going to afford a great night’s sleep, but up went the tent and into the tent went two weary hikers.

We arose the next day, had coffee and breakfast and started up the trail.  We ran into “The Ds,” who were, unfortunately, getting off trail for a few days due to the passing of Devon’s, the male half of the D’s, grandmother passing away.  The D’s are two of our favorite thru-hikers.  An interesting phenomenon happens on trail.  People sometimes come into your hike, you strike up some form of trailship with them and you will either continue to run into them from time to time, or they may just be gone.  The D’s, White Socks, Sam, Love Bug, and Turbo seem to just always be around.  We may lose sight of them for a few days, but then bam, there they are either at a shelter or at a resupply town.  We hope this trend continues.

Meeting the PUBEs

A few more days of hiking led us to the Icewater Spring shelter where we were greeted by what can only be described as a stand-up comedy act waiting for a place to happen.  Laughter prevails on the trail, however nowhere so far has this been more evident than at this shelter.  The PUBEs (Professional Union of Backpacker Enthusiasts) had us absolutely in stitches.  The only thing missing from their routine was a mic and klieg lights. We were regaled by backpacking stories accumulated over these six men’s decades-long friendship.  Unfortunately, we were headed south while they were headed north, so for us, it was a one-night act.  However, those lucky northbounders were promised fresh material when they met up again.

Icewater Springs is about 1.3 miles from an iconic AT landmark, Charles Bunion.

Charlies Bunion: Hike From Newfound Gap on the Appalachian Trail

Clingmans Dome – The Return

So far doing the AT has been a lot about logistics.  Figuring out when we would like to be somewhere vs when the trail wants us to be there.  Our return to Clingmans Dome was an example of this. We decided to break the 11-mile hike to Clingmans into two days.  This would allow us to have a nero (low mileage day) along with a zero(no mileage day) in Gatlinburg.  We have adopted this practice as it usually allows us to get all of our trail-related chores done while also allowing us to be off the trail both mentally and physically for a day.  We walked the first seven miles to Mt. Collins Shelter which set us up for a four-mile walk to Clingmans the next day.


As we were making way to Mt. Collins, Santa overheard a young couple talking about being surprised.  In true Santa form, Santa asked what was so surprising.  Ends up Aubrey was surprised by a morning marriage proposal from her boyfriend Brady.  Congratulations Aubrey and Brady!

Walking up Clingmans Southbound

The Southern Appalachian spruce-fir forest which covers Clingmans Dome occurs only at the highest elevations in the southeastern United States.  It can best be described as a fairyland.

Unfortunately, the fairyland is under attack by a microscopic insect that is decimating the forest.  The forest has been ravaged.  To understand how majestic these trees are/were here is a picture of Patmos standing next to an uprooted tree.


After securing a ride into town, we arrive back where we had started four physically demanding days previous.  After taking a nero/zero we catch a ride to Davenport Gap to start North Again.

The Smoky Mountain Recap

For us, Davenport Gap marks the northern end of the Smoky Mountains. The Smoky Mountain are b e a u t i f u l!!! While being physically demanding, the views offered by the effort are so very worth it. Easily said when done, not so much when climbing the mountain. For us getting through the Smokys is a milestone passed.

Onward to Hot Springs via Max Patch

While in the Smoky Mountains, thru-hikers are required to sleep either in or as close to a shelter as possible. This requirement negates our ability to just be done for the day, pick a flat spot, set up camp and just relax. Being out of the Smoky Mountains we can now camp where we please.  We took advantage of this freedom our first night back on trail. We found a nice flat area, set up camp, ate, and enjoyed a fire built by our trail friend Patmos.  The next day found us up and out of camp and on our way to another iconic AT site, Max Patch.  Another out of this world view was had at 4,700 feet above sea level.

Of course whatever goes up, must come down so down we got to spend the next two days going up and down over various PUDs (pointless ups and downs) to finally arrive in the trail town of Hot Springs North Carolina.


  • Non-flat tent site.
  • Yolo’s sore feet.


  • Finishing the Smoky Mountains.
  • Orange Slices. The official before we set up camp treat.
  • The full moon in the middle of a pitch-black night.
  • Santa jamming with White Sox outside Laughing Heart Hostel.
  • Running into the D’s on a random street in Hot Springs.
  • Patmos fire-making abilities.
  • Taking off shoes after a long day’s hike.
  • Town food.
  • Heighten sense of smell making flowers very pungent.

Random Photos

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Comments 12

  • Bob Gale : May 21st

    Y’all are amazing, the joy is in the journey.
    Happy trails,
    Bob and Kim

    • Pat & Paula : Jun 17th

      Hello El President and Marine One!

      Thanks for reading! The joy is indeed the journey, however the joy is even more real where there is pizza involved.

  • Dora Filimon : May 21st

    Thank you for sharing your adventure with us! ❤️

    • Pat & Paula : Jun 17th

      Thanks for all you do for us!

  • Barbara J. Kraemer : May 22nd

    Everything sounds so awesome though I got a little confused with you heading north, then south, then circling around. Rock-climb on, you two! Love you.

    • Pat & Paula : Jun 17th

      Thanks! Not as confused as we were when doing it. At times when fellow thru-hikers asked which way we were going all we could do is point and say, “That way”.

  • Robin : May 23rd

    You are living my dream. Thank you

    • Pat & Paula : Jun 17th

      Ours also! If you decide to do the AT next year, Yolo and I have decided to do Trail Magic somewhere along the trail, so look for us.

  • Peg and Tom Moran : May 24th

    Hi you two amazing people.

    I’m exhausted just reading about your trek. Oh to be young again, and then I don’t think I would have walked the first mile. Can’t wait to hear all about you adventure next winter. Happy trails to you until we meet again. Stay safe. Just to keep you in the condo loop. Clyde passed away this passed weekend. Age 95 He was at his daughters in Miss.
    Peg & Tom

    • Pat & Paula : Jun 17th

      Fair winds and calm seas to you guys as well. Please let us know when you are headed back south.

  • Melissa Stroud : May 25th

    I have really enjoyed reading about your trek… I would love to do that someday on my bucket list….

  • Pat & Paula : Jun 17th

    Do it, you will never regret for a nanosecond that decision.


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