Day 25: Newfound Gap and Gatlinburg

Early Wakeup

It was dark when I awoke. I pulled my phone out of my sleeping bag and checked the time. Yup, it’s 5:00am alright. I’m not sure why my body decided that that was the time to get moving. Probably because I knew I was going to town and I’d get to take a hot shower and eat food not of my own making. Or it could have been the wind. It was loud even with my earbuds. I was in no rush though. I ended up reading. I finally finished the last book of a trilogy.

By the time the birds started singing and I could see inside my tent without needing a flashlight, I knew I could finally get up. Breakfast was nonexistent. I had a snack and hoped it’d get me to Newfound Gap.

Down to Newfound

I left with Fine Young Buck and Sweeper. They said that I could have the fourth spot in the shared hotel room if I wanted. Originally, I had no plans whatsoever and figured I’d just wing it. I accepted their offer. It’d come down to twenty-five dollars a night.

I was loving the fresh white blazes and the alpine forests. I had to take pictures.

The hike down to the gap was nice. It wasn’t cold and it was beginning to sprinkle. With the humidity becoming more noticeable, the rain was like a cold shower. It was nice. The pine forests were shrouded in fog. I wouldn’t mind coming back when it was pouring rain or snowing. The aesthetic would be worth it.

I crossed the infamous fences that safeguard the beech forest from wild hogs. If you have FarOut, the comments are hilarious. Careful though, they are slippery when wet.

Newfound Gap

Newfound wasn’t much further than that. When I reached the road, it was tourist city. The parking lot was full and there were dozens of people out and about. It was kind of a shock for a Monday morning.

I definitely got glances as I dropped my pack and aired out my sweaty back and pits. When you thru-hike, you stop caring what others think of you. Fine Young Buck and Sweeper weren’t far behind. We just needed to wait for DunkAroo. He showed up soon after. The plan was to hitchhike.

We first stood around and conversed. We also checked our phones for updates since we all had service. The ranger who was going to give me a ride ghosted me. While frustrating, it made it easier to stick with the tramily I was with.

A random guy got out of the truck with the parrots and demanded they poop. It took a few tries, but one did. He left after that. It was a sight to see.

Hitchhiking

Once we all started getting cold from the wind, we headed towards the road to hitchhike. I’m sure we looked like idiots – standing there and smiling. Most avoided eye contact. Some gave death glares. And others smiled back and gave us a thumbs up. It took about ten minutes before a young woman stopped and asked where we were headed. “Gatlinburg,” I state. “I don’t have enough room for all of you.” “That’s okay. We can split up,” claimed Fine Young Buck. That was acceptable and Fine Young Buck and I climbed in.

The driver was there after a business trip and she wanted to try backpacking for the first time. She bought all the gear and made it happen.

The drive was a long one. It was fifteen miles, but it was a windy one. It was pretty though. And busy. God, why are there so many people here? It’s a Monday. In the backcountry, there’s nobody there except thru-hikers.

Cici’s Pizza

The driver asked where we wanted to be dropped off and Fine Young Buck said Cici’s – an all you can eat pizza buffet. Sweeper and DunkAroo were five minutes behind us. We hiked our smelly selves inside and devoured some food. I had a salad, almost an entire pizza, and, of course, dessert. I could wait another ten minutes and keep eating. At some point, though, the stomach can’t hold anymore.

A prime example of Frogg Togg durability. DunkAroo was debating on getting another rain jacket, but decided to keep it. He won’t use duct tape either. It has armpit vents now, I suppose.

We sat around and played on our phones. The conversations we did have were hilarious, but I was told that I couldn’t share any of it.

The Hotel and Laundry

Eventually, we got up and headed to the hotel. It was 0.3 miles from the eatery, but it was uphill. Boy, did we groan and complain the entire way up.

The room was nice and had decent views overlooking Gatlinburg. We opened the windows and all began taking turns using the shower. I’ll just say this, the water turned brown. Afterwards, we just lounged around. I nearly fell asleep. I forced myself to stay awake so we could do laundry. Wearing my rain gear when it was in the high 70s was not super fun. I was sweating. After being clean, I did notice how bad my clothes actually smelled. It was bad. Fine Young Buck grabbed his and gagged.

The hotel had coin operated laundry machines and we just dumped our stuff in. It was nap time for him while I caught up with some people back home. Once laundry was done, I laid down and read until 7:30.

Food Plans

At 7:30, the group of us planned on going to Walgreens to pick up some cheap food for the night. It was not cheap nor was it good food. We headed to Five Guys instead. I ordered a small burger and fries. The burger was full sized and my bag was brimming with fries. It was too much. I couldn’t finish it all.

The walk back to the hotel was nice. It was dark, but the streets were as popular as ever. I was told that Gatlinburg was the hillbilly version of Las Vegas, but in the east. I didn’t think that was true before arriving, until I saw it at night. “Holy shit, this is the hillbilly version of Las Vegas.” It was geared towards both adults and children. I was excited to explore tomorrow. I was on the hunt for stickers.

Back up the hill we went and I took another shower. Duh. Once I got out, I found out that the queen sized bed was all mine. Fine Young Buck got the other one, DunkAroo had the floor, and Sweeper claimed the pullout sofa bed. I offered to take the floor since I wasn’t tramily, but they insisted I get the bed. I won’t complain. It’s soft. I didn’t get to sleep until after 11:00. The temptation of the phone was too much.

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