Day 31 – Clear Skies? In the Smokies?

Day 31

Start: Cosby Knob Shelter

End: Painter Branch Campsite

Miles Hiked: 12.8

Miles on AT: 244.1


This morning we woke up to glorious sunshine. It was quite a departure from what we were expecting. Instead of rain and clouds, there were blue skies and a hint of a view. A lot of thru hikers got up and out of camp early since they were headed to town at Davenport Gap. We, however, took our time, eating breakfast at the shelter and hoping that the sun would be strong enough to dry a few things in the meantime.

At the shelter the night before, there were rumblings of disappointment from the weekend hikers because of the large number of thru hikers on trail. The shelters were crowded and their expectations of a relaxing excursion in the woods didn’t quite match the reality of hiking around thru hikers. And that’s not to say the thru hikers were loud and rambunctious, there were just a lot of us. But, hey, it’s the AT in the springtime; I guess they didn’t know what they were getting themselves into. By the morning, however, it seemed that a good night’s rest reset their spirits.

We got on trail relatively early for us and enjoyed the warm, dry conditions. The trail was nice and smooth. I kept looking for the perfect shot of the westerly view, but, alas, the trees remained front and center, as is usual for the AT.

After our morning ascent, we began the extended downhill journey into Davenport Gap. My knees still hurt slightly, but the braces were doing their jobs well. We came to a blue blaze leading to a lookout tower, but the extra 1.2 mile round trip journey put us off. Yes, I know I said take all the blue blazes, but we all dismiss our own advice every once in a while. 

A few hikers who passed us and took the blue blaze said it was well worth it, especially since they hadn’t had too many opportunities to see nice views in the Smokies. We were slightly disappointed that we hadn’t taken the side trip, that is, until we reached the most perfect picture spot on this section of trail.

A rocky outcropping stood at the corner of one of the turns on trail and provided us with expansive views of the valley below. We climbed onto the rock, enjoyed a mini photoshoot, and sat for a while, soaking it all in. Sadly, we could see the clouds moving in behind us, so we had to keep it pushing.

Down, down, down we went. We reached Davenport Gap Shelter and stopped to eat our lunch. We hung our tent up to dry and collected water; not two minutes later, the sky opened and it began to rain again. Nice and dry, we spent a good chunk of time at the fenced-in shelter (because of wild hogs apparently) before we decided to bite the bullet and continue hiking in the rain.

Eventually we arrived at the gap and then continued on to the I-40 underpass. A small creek flowed with us and a few cool wilderness finds greeted us on our way. Soon we were crossing the Pigeon River and I-40 to find ourselves back in the woods.

3 more miles! We were in the home stretch, but fatigue was starting to kick in. We had about 1500 feet to climb. The terrain itself was surprisingly not terrible, but when combined with end of the day fatigue, it was a killer. After moving slowly, slowly up, we finally reached our campsite.

Painter Branch was absolutely lovely! Tucked behind a stream, it was difficult to spot from trail and seemed a lot smaller unless you took the initiative to keep looking for a good tent site. We had the place all to ourselves. One other person was camping in the campsite, but we couldn’t see or hear him from where we were. We would have a nice, quiet, peaceful evening tonight. 


And that’s day 31.


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Comments 2

  • anna : May 18th

    Jen, the photos are glorious! Thank you for the images of wildflowers & fungus as well as those haunting images of a misty trail in the woods.

    • Jen Brown : May 19th

      I’m glad you enjoy them!


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