Day 29: New Members and Burning the Puffy

The Fourth Member

Today was the day we hoped to hike. I wasn’t in any rush since the road wouldn’t open in the morning. That was a guarantee. The others were all up and packing though. As always, it was 7:30. I began packing, but then we got a knock on the door. It was Blaze, the fourth member of their tramily, who had driven thirteen hours the day previously to get here in time for today. The one and only time I saw him was when everyone though he rebroke his ankle. It was only badly sprained.

Everyone went to the sitting area in the lobby and I stayed back. Their tramily was complete and I wasn’t apart of it. They needed time alone. I waited for a bit before heading out to greet them. We immediately started asking what the plan was for the day. The road was still closed and more snow was forecasted for the night. Ultimately, we made the decision to move on and skip the remaining thirty miles of the Smokies. What could we do? They were closed and we were ready to move on. Nobody wanted to SOBO the section as we would end up back in Gatlinburg.

The snow visible on the mountains was a constant reminder of what was to come.

Shuttle to Standing Bear

We headed down the hill for breakfast and had our fill. Back at the hotel room, I began calling shuttle drivers. Nobody answered. Fine Young Buck texted Julie (trail name Stripper) earlier and she responded back. She could take us to I-40. The shuttle was leaving from the Quality Inn at 11:30. We had two hours to kill. I laid back down and read. Everyone else chatted. I was interrupted once when I heard Fine Young Buck’s phone say, “Your wife has texted you, my Lord” in Darth Vader’s voice. That cracked me up.

Very quickly, 11:00 came around and we headed towards the Quality Inn. All I wanted to do was to go to bed. I pushed on anyways. Julie arrived at 11:30 and since there were so many of us, she said three had to sit in the bed of the truck. I was one of those three. I always enjoy doing that, but it was 40 degrees out and overcast. It started off fine at first, then it got colder. I didn’t realize that the trip was 45 minutes. I was freezing by the end of it.

Sweeper and I bundled up before the 45 minute journey.

The Struggles of Leaving the Vortex

At the trailhead, I just didn’t want to hike. The vortex of going into town is real. Even in a town like Gatlinburg. I began the hike up. I was the slowest too. I just didn’t feel good about myself. I felt like I was just starting. To be fair, my pack was significantly heavier with all the food and my calf muscles were locked up for two miles. I was in pain. My legs were resistant to every movement.

The entire hike, I just wished I was warm and in a bed. When I hit the snow line, it was very pretty. You couldn’t stop for long though. It was in the 20s.

The downhill was hard too. The soles of my feet were killing me. This is what happens when you rest for a while in town. Your body protests. When the sign pointing to the shelter was visible, I didn’t feel any relief. I was too tired.

Groundhog Creek Shelter

I got there and was offered a beer. Hell yeah. I took it. It was trail magic from eariler in the day. I set up my tent and then went to the fire that someone had going before I even showed up. It was roaring. I nursed the beer as I mustered up the energy to make dinner. It took a while, but finally found the energy. It was mashed potatoes and chicken.

For the duration of dinner, I stood around the fire. It was so hot that it burnt numerous holes all over my puffy. Great. Love that. This poor jacket has been through so much. Additionally, I was also about to go off on three people who kept throwing their trash in the fire. I didn’t feel safe doing so, though. They reached to grab my trash and I said, “Don’t. It’s not LNT friendly to throw trash in the fire.” What burns doesn’t magically disappear and it’s a great way to attract bears. Don’t do this.

I brushed my teeth and took my food bag to the bear box. Apparently, the bears are so persistent that bear hangs don’t work in this area. I called my dad, telling him where I was for the night and fetched some water. I was soon in my tent and called it a night. It wasn’t even 7:00.

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 4

  • M.J. Simon : Apr 14th

    Morgan Schmidt, over the 200+ miles you have trekked, i have become fascinated by your experiences– Both good and challenging. Thank you for your chapters. Because of your honesty, my admiration of Dan’l Boone, his family and how, without anything (food, shelter, maps, medicine, hygiene supplies, trams, cell phones, endured for endured for decades, well into his 70’s and showed us what we all can do. God speed!

    • Morgan Schmidt : Apr 14th

      Thank you! That means a lot. I really try to be completely honest about the experience because romanticizing doesn’t help anybody. While hiking, I constantly think about what I would do if I had none of my gear. The people back then were hardcore and hiking makes me realize that I’m living in luxury compared to them.

  • Flash : Apr 14th

    Your best is good enough. You’re doing an awesome job on this incredibly tough mental and physical journey. Remember your why and just put one foot in front of the other. Safe travels!

    • Morgan Schmidt : Apr 14th

      Thank you. It’s hard some days. Thru-hiking is still so new to me that I don’t know how my body and mind will react/adapt. You’re right though – one foot in front of the other!


What Do You Think?