Day 26: Tornado Watches and Embracing the Inner Trash Panda

Resupply at the Continental Breakfast

There is something about being in town that tells your body to let loose. I don’t poop nearly as much on trail as I do in town. TMI, I know. But that’s how I started the day.

The others were slow to get up and I just read. After a while, Fine Young Buck got up and decided to check out the continental breakfast. I decided to go with. Sweeper came too. They had what I wanted though – a waffle maker. Hotel-provided breakfasts suck – let’s face it. It was so good though. I ate so much. When thru-hiking, you view the world differently. I saw what was provided and they had everything I wanted for a breakfast resupply. They had packaged oatmeal. I would get up to grab something to eat in the moment and snag two packets. I’d get up again and snag two more. Everything changed when I saw the peanut butter. They were in perfect small containers. I began grabbing those when Fine Young Buck and DunkAroo distracted the concierge. I had to hold up my pants as I walked out. My pockets were bulging. I was extremely proud.

My haul for the day.

Kitchen Cleaning Gag-Fest

We all headed back to the room and began doing the typical hiker chores. I backflushed my filter and started looking into cleaning my dirty kitchen dishes. I had mac n cheese the last night on trail, but forgot that the elevation was higher than usual which caused my noodles to gel due to the high amounts of cornstarch. It just wasn’t good. I put it in my dirty cold soak container that had some leftover ramen.

I was told to dump the leftovers in the toilet. Everyone heard me gag as the leftovers dropped into the toilet. I left the container on the sink and ran out of the bathroom to get fresh air. Everyone was laughing. Fine Young Buck went into the bathroom, gagged, and came out saying, “It dribbled on the toilet.” I was dying with laughter. “How long was the food in there?” I couldn’t even answer. I was laughing so hard. I took a deep breath and went back in to fill the container with water and to wipe the toilet. It took me three times. I would run back out when I would inevitably laugh again. The stink lingered too.

The NOC Outfitter

10:00 is the time that everything opens in Gatlinburg. Everyone but DunkAroo left to go to the NOC Outfitter. I was surprised it was there in Gatlinburg. It was much larger than the actual NOC. We all split up and I was on the search for cheap clothing, stickers, and a possible hiker box.

I waited on the stickers. I wanted to explore the downtown area before committing to a design. The clothes were still too expensive – even 50% off. I couldn’t find a hiker box, but asked an employee if they had one. They do! I found a new shirt! And I got some baggies. I hoped for some near empty fuel canisters, but there was none. Hopefully I have enough fuel to get me to Standing Bear.

The Trolley Experience

We went back to the room, dinked around, and then took two trolleys to get to the grocery store to do a resupply. The trolley is an experience. On the way to the store, I overheard two older women talk down about those with less money. It made me think of how the upper class in the 1800s talked about the poor. They had no idea that I was living in the woods. I also overheard a young couple seriously say how their vacation would be ruined if they didn’t see a bear. I was starting to wish I walked the three miles one way to the grocery store.

After what felt like hours, we finally made it to the grocery store. And I committed a sin. I walked in there hungry. Everything looked good. Deciding on snacks was rough. Really rough. When I checked out, I noticed how most of it wasn’t healthy. I felt a good amount of guilt. At least I got baby food. There just weren’t any vegetables – besides the salad I was having for lunch. I may go back and change some things up.

While waiting for the trolley to take us back, I handed out ice cream bars for everyone. The ride back was much shorter. A mother sitting next to me pointed out to her child one of the numerous chairlifts in the area and the child immediately goes, “I can’t ride that. I’m too fat.” She was a twig. Her parents laughed out loud and the mother said to me, “I’d hate to think what she thought of me.” It was all good natured. The rest of the gang weren’t overhearing lighthearted stuff, though. One man was talking to another spewing extremely racist thoughts. We were all glad to be done with the public transit. We got off and the hike up the hill to the room sucked. We were all weighed down with groceries. Upon arrival, we dug into our food. The time passed quickly as we called family and friends and played on our phones.

Surprise! Tornado Watch

I was in the middle of editing a blog post when I saw a weather notification on my phone. “Hey,” I said to the group. “We’re under a tornado watch right now.” I grew excited because I have an obsession with extreme weather. Sweeper grew concerned. And Fine Young Buck said, “It wasn’t a mistake to take a zero after all.”

Sweeper turned on the weather channel and we were bombarded with tornado warnings all over northern Tennessee, Kentucky, and parts of Ohio and Indiana. Our area wasn’t getting severe weather until midnight.

The weather channel was playing for a solid four hours.

I have moved several times and have lived in a variety of places. For me, I spent the majority of my teenage and college life in Kentucky. I have lived in Louisville, Corbin, and Hazard. Louisville was hit hard earlier that morning and was getting another round as I watched the news. Hazard, a mountainous town similar to Gatlinburg (geography-wise), appeared to go in and out of tornado warnings. While I no longer live there, I felt my heartstrings pull for those experiencing those conditions. I felt removed, but not.

Mini Feast

By 8:00, we all started heating up our individual meals and ended up sharing them. It was a miniature feast. I watched the wind pick up and decided to take a shower. I came back and prepared for bed. I was constantly looking at the radar. I saw some hikers earlier in the day who were planning on going back on trail. If they did, I hope they made it and decided to stay in the shelter. In addition to the chance of tornados, we are also expecting 70 mph wind gusts and hail. We expect a lot of trees to fall and the power to go out. Soon after, we will get snow.

I only planned on a nero and a zero, but with the next two days predicting snow, I will be staying longer. While it may only be a dusting here in Gatlinburg, AT Weather says that the shelter I plan on going to next is expected to get upwards of four inches of snow. I much rather play it smart and stay in town to wait the weather out. Besides, $25 a night is affordable. One must be flexible in order to succeed.

By 9:30, we finally turned off the TV and lights. We all went to bed wondering how bad the storm would be in the next couple of hours.

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