Day 19 – I Thought The Smoky Mountains Would Be A Little Bit Smokier

That John Denver was full of shit man.

Today was a lot of things. 13 miles and over 4500 ft in elevation gain aside. I woke up feeling good considering yesterday was a 17 mile day. Sleeping in a bed and a climate controlled room usually helps with that.  I had a great breakfast. The “hungry hiker” consisted of a generous 2 pancakes, 3 sausage, 3 eggs, home fries and a biscuit. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t finish it all. Afterall, there are starving hikers on the AT.

I made my way down to the general store to resupply. I’m hoping to get through the 70 miles of Smokies without another resupply so I stocked up.

I caught a shuttle back to the marina where I ended the previous day. I found out I could have resupplied at the marina or continued to the Fontana Dam Shelter aka the “Fontana Hilton” (which was my original plan) and got a shuttle from there in the morning. Kicking myself for not know this. Another downside of hiking solo.

I’m finding myself in this tramily dead zone. I have friends ahead of me and behind me. Again I don’t mind the solitude and the people I find myself around each night are nice and friendly. But I’m longing for the consistent tramily experience. Maybe it’s a pipe dream. Time will tell.

I did see some cool shit today though. The Fontana Dam was pretty damn cool (puns are the highest form of comedy). Probably my third favorite dam after the Hoover Dam and the Head Dam (Paradise, CA). I was fully expecting a person to check my hiking permit into the Smokies. Also, I was expecting to be turned around for starting so late in the day. I crossed the Dam and entered the park around 1pm and the closest shelter was over 10 miles and 4500ft of climbing away (you’re mandated to stay at a shelter in the Smokies). Unexpectedly, there was no park representative to say “you’ll never make it, turn around and start earlier tomorrow,” but I ended up making it into Mollies Shelter around 6:30PM.

Along the way, I got to climb the Shuckstack, the 4th Firetower along the AT. It was super windy at the top but the views were pretty epic. Not many clouds so to speak of today but I expect that to change as rain is in the forecast later this week.

I trudged I to camp just in time for dinner and a great sunset. Mollies Shelter is situated on the crest of a hill and it’s pretty windy. Given this I opted to sleep inside the shelter. I was surprised to find 8 or so hikers already asleep in the shelter while it was still light out, who does that?

Tomorrow looks fairly cruise-y. Klingmans Dome and the highest point along the whole AT is 22 miles away. Dare I try for that? If the body feels good we will but 30 miles over the last 2 days has me beat at the moment. Off to a muscle relaxer aided slumber and we’ll see you manana.

Stow away in my pack for Day 19 on the Appalachian Trail.

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Comments 5

  • Cory : May 4th

    Great pictures. Makes me even more excited for my second Smokies section this July from Cosby up Snake Den. Will have to find myself a fire tower! Thanks for sharing, and for the puns!

    • Derek Witteman : May 10th

      Thanks for reading. The Firetowers are gold in the smokies and a must hike, even if it’s a side trail IMO. Happy hiking!!

  • Kelli Ramey : May 4th

    Wait….John Denver sang about the Colorado Rocky Mountains?
    And….if you don’t get to see the Smoky Mountains with clouds hugging and circling them(the smoke), you have really missed something. All it takes is some rain or cool weather.

    • Derek Witteman : May 10th

      It’s a line from the Movie “Dumb and Dumber”. I lived in WV for school so I’m well acquainted with the true John Denver lyrics. I definitely ended up getting some rain and “smoke” the last couple days in the park. There’s a Timelapse on my Instagram @barkeycharles

  • Bobby : May 5th

    Great photos .The Smokies are a smoky hazy blue in the summer when the terpenes gassed out from the trees photosynthesis creates the natural smokey blue haze . Then you get the low clouds sticking the ridges like cotton candy. Combine it all and it gives the region it’s name. Good luck on your trek.


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