Day 24: Clingman’s Dome…And Bears? Licking Shirts?

Wait?! A Bear?!

Earplugs really are amazing. They quiet the noises all around you so you can sleep better out in the backcountry. I woke up, ready to tackle the day. I pulled out my earplugs and heard the start of a conversation between Hawaii, another female hiker, and another hiker who didn’t have a trail name. “Hey, did you hear that bear last night?” Wait? A bear? “Yeah, it was rummaging around. Were you the one who clapped?” asked Hawaii. “Yeah, I did! The noise seemed to have run it off.” “This could be the start of your trail name.” Hawaii thought briefly before exclaiming, “The Clap! Your new name is The Clap.” He laughed and said no. He now refers to himself as The Clap.

I went to the bathroom and came back and asked Hawaii, “So, there was a bear last night?” “Yeah. It woke me up. It was either somebody taking a long bathroom break or it was a bear. I’m suprised you didn’t hear it. It was loud.” Yeah, I’m surprised too. The fact that I was completely oblivious got to me.

Breakfast and a Mystery

Breakfast consisted of coldsoaked ramen. I forgot to add the seasoning, so it was literally cold noodles. I ate what I could, added some water, and placed the seasoning and dehydrated vegetables in the container. Guess I have lunch.

As I was breaking down camp, I noticed that my hiking shirt – which was dry when I laid it out last night on a low hanging branch – was wet. But what was weirder was it was only wet where the salt buildup was. Here’s the thing. That shirt was less than five feet away from my tent. I told Hawaii and she said that my shirt now had bear slobber on it. It didn’t smell funky, so I don’t know. Weird right?

Uphill is Queen

Today was a mostly uphill day. I automatically dread the uphill, but it’s the downhill that hurts more. My trail legs have come in and I can push myself up a mountain without needing to take a break. It feels nice. The beginning of the day started with a small uphill climb, before dropping down. And down. I move stupidly slow. I’m usually a speed demon down the hill, but with my aching joints, I can no longer do that. I was glad when that section was done.

If you don’t know, you engage different muscles when hiking up versus hiking down. I always mentally think of shifting gears when the terrain changes. When going downhill, my hips lock up and it’s very noticeable after the trail levels out. When that happened today, I needed to stretch them out. I felt like I was walking down a catwalk with Shakira’s song “Hips Don’t Lie” playing in the background.

Springtime Lunch

The hike continued upward. After the whole ‘bear in camp’ incident, I was on the lookout for bears. I didn’t listen to music the whole time. It was kind of nice though. The birds were singing and the plants are coming back to life. Including all the poison ivy. Man, there was so much.

I stopped at Siler’s Bald Shelter for lunch and Ranger, Kentucky Chris, and Ranger’s friend (who I don’t know the name of) joined me. I ate my ramen, which was spicy on my cracked lips, but it was good. We chatted for a while before I decided to head on.

The Way Ahead

The top of this climb had three things going for it. One, the top is Clingman’s Dome. Two, this is the highest point on the Appalachian Trail. And three, it marks mile marker 200. What made me really happy about the climb upwards was that the trail moved into pine tree territory. I felt like I was coming home. The smell, the trees, the soft ground, moss everywhere… What made it even better was that it completely blocked out the sun. The high for the day was in the 80s, supposedly, and it was hot. I was sweating profusely. The cool air was a balm.

About a mile from the top, Ranger passed me. I caught up though when he stopped at a gorgeous view. He said I might have cell service, but I didn’t. Good thing I checked a few miles ago. I finally got a message sent to my possible ride.

The last bit of trail was full of stairs. They weren’t good stairs either. I was very excited when I saw a trail sign with no mileage counter pointing towards Clingman’s Dome. I was so close.

Clingman’s Dome

There was minimal road walking before I finally saw Clingman’s Dome for the first time. It was smaller than I thought. I dropped my stuff off near Ranger’s, took a picture of the makeshift 200 mile marker, and headed up. The ramp is supposed to be wheelchair accessible, but I pity the poor person either pushing someone or those wheeling themselves up.


The views were great. It was a 360 view. There was a good amount of air pollution, so everything was a little hazy. I celebrated with a snack. Ranger even said that he considered me apart of his tramily since I’ve been hiking with them since Fontana Dam. That made me warm inside.

I was up there long enough to get cold. I headed back down and laid in the sun. I didn’t want to leave. According to the NPS sign, I had four more miles to go. My FarOut app said I had 2.8. It’s hard to know which one to believe. By the end of that hike, I’m thinking they were both wrong and I just did another six.

On the Trail Again

My feet were killing me. It was a steep and rocky downhill. I passed a few hikers heading to the dome and some even looked like they were going to camp there.

I climbed up one more mountain and saw Fine Young Buck sitting on a log with no backpacking gear in sight. I hadn’t seen him in nearly a week. I greeted him and asked, in a concerned way, why he was there. The shelter was over half a mile away and he didn’t have anything on him. Apparently, that was the closest place where he had service. He was booking a hotel room for the tramily. He asked if I knew about the bad weather coming and I said that starting tomorrow and continuing through Tuesday was expected thunderstorms and possible snow at higher elevations. He showed me the weather forcast. Apparently Wednesday and Thursday will have highs in the low twenties. That wasn’t even at elevation. It’d be colder where we’d be camping. My gear is good, but not that good. My hiking outfit won’t keep me warm enough in those temperatures. My nero might turn into a few zeros. Great.

I said goodbye and continued on. He very quickly caught up. I offered to let him pass, but he said he was good. We chatted on the way to the shelter. Upon arrival, I said hello to the rest of Fine Young Buck’s tramily and scoped out a tent site.

Helping Hands at Mt Collins Shelter

I found a place and Fine Young Buck came over and offered to fill my water bladder. I was very grateful. I gave him a hug – a sweaty one. Tis is life I suppose. I was finished setting up camp when he got back. He probably knew how much I was relying on my trekking poles on that downhill.

I prepared dinner and conversed with those also making food. I didn’t spend much time there because I was ready for bed. I got to camp at 6:00 and was ready to sleep. A few laughed at how bad my hiker’s hobble was. It was pitiful how much it hurt to walk. I hung up my food and crawled into bed. Goodnight.

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Comments 3

  • Just Steve (Hey Google) : Apr 8th

    Salt pulls moisture out of the air. That’s why your shirt was only wet where the salt was. That’s why socks never dry sometimes. You need to rinse the salt of of them occasionally 🙂

    • Morgan Schmidt : Apr 14th

      That’s good to know. Go figure you knew that! I didn’t think it was an animal, since the shirt wasn’t disturbed, but I was very confused upon seeing that.

      • Just Steve (Hey Google) : Apr 18th

        Hmm, that must be why Ian calls me Hey, Google – lol Just earning my trail name 🙂


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