Days 14 to 20 of my 2023 AT Nobo Thru-Hike

Day 14

Taco party with the taco family at Fontana Dam Shelter

Excellent day! Woke up today to clear cool weather, and immediately hit the trail after a quick pack up. It was a bit frosty at first, but after a quick hustle up hill, I warmed up and enjoyed the icy branches on the ridge line. The day flew by as I hiked with Sour Patch, Connor, DB, and Gone-zo. I’m incredibly happy to be hiking and talking to others again, because I felt a bit isolated the past week or so. It also made the day fly by, and I enjoyed learning more about those I had surrounded myself with. We wrapped up the day with trail magic at the fancy Fontana Dam shelter, and I am absolutely stoked to be entering the Smokies tomorrow!

Day 15

Finally in the Smokies!

After a long night at the “Hilton” shelter, we packed up and headed into the Smokies. It was incredibly cold all day, and I felt like I kept having to stop to adjust my layers as we climbed higher and higher. We stopped at the sketchiest fire watch tower, but again, the view from on top was absolutely amazing! I didn’t do much talking today, but from listening to Darren, Conner, and Sour Patch, I learned a lot about the history and famous producers of pop. Once we arrived at the shelter, the temperature plummeted to the single digits, and I was happy that we had a tarp to cover the open side of it. The shelter also had a fireplace which we build a large fire in, and then took turns maintaining at night. Likewise, nearly everyone was huddled up together to stay warm. The extreme cold isn’t fun, but it’s amazing how everyone pitched in to help without anyone having to be told. As a final note, hiking with others has absolutely lifted my spirits and made these rougher days significantly more enjoyable!

Day 16

Ice on the ridge line ahead

Another cold day but with some incredible views! The “cuddle puddle” of everyone huddling next to each other at night has continued, but more organized, and I’ve been able to sleep a bit better. Major, DB, Gone-zo and I hiked together for half the day, and then I ended up walking the other half solo to process some thoughts going through my head about post hike life. I caught an absolutely amazing sunset before quickly chowing down and crashing for the night. I feel like I’ve been eating significantly more food recently, but it’s been keeping me warmer, and climbs have been easier. Short post tonight as I am way too cold haha. We ended the day at Double Spring Gap Shelter which had a gorgeous forest walk right before it.

Day 17

Freezing at Clingmans

Started the day with a deer sighting and shooting the shit with the hilariously unprepared 17 year olds that stayed in the shelter with us. None of them had sleeping pads, and all of them were wearing cotton. After Dough Boy finished trying to spread wisdom to them, we departed and quickly summited Clingmans Dome (the highest spot on the AT) and took in the amazing views. I helped DB take a nice video for his documentary before we took off down the trail. What followed was an hours long slog over thick ice where we each ate it at least once. I had my first trail fall and came down hard on my arm. So hard that it swelled up quite a bit, and I was forced to take some anti-inflammatories. Blissfully, we did encounter a bathroom with running water, which did make the day a bit better. Fingers crossed the weather continues to hold until we escape the Smokies. Oh! We also crossed into Tennessee as well! We ended the day at Icewater Spring Shelter, which hopefully isn’t foreshadowing anything to come…

Day 18

Today was pretty dang rough, and I’m honestly not sure if I would have made it without the help of Sour Patch and Darren. The weather was cold and rainy, and the trail completely turned into a slick ice rink. Thankfully, those two had thought to pack out micro-spikes, so they were able to help escort Major, Dough Boy, and I through the rough patches. The rest of the day was a long, misty, muddy slog, which ended with me trying to cram into a little space left over in the shelter. I was planning to hike to the next shelter, but the group managed to squeeze together to make enough space for me to sleep on the little step up area for the upper shelf. No pics today as I didn’t want to take my eyes off of where I was walking. Fingers crossed it actually warms up tomorrow and that conditions improve. That being said, I am incredibly thankful and fortunate to have found this amazing group of people! We stopped at Tri-Corner Knob Shelter, which was all mud, and had practically zero flat tent sites.

Day 19

Fire tower views

We woke up to more clouds and light rain, but thankfully the weather finally broke and we were rewarded with gorgeous misty vistas for our long descent out of the Smokies. Thankfully there weren’t any major patches of ice, so we were able to easily crush a ton of miles during the day. Because of our quick pace, we were able to take a side trail to check out the awesome Mt. Cammerer fire watch tower. From there down, it warmed up into the 70s as we rapidly descended down several thousand feet. At the base, we had to cross under I-40, and a passing car gave us all White Claws to enjoy. Finally, we completed one more semi-strenuous climb up to Standing Bear hostel where we crashed for the night, caught up on camp chores, and said goodbye to Darren before he headed off to Asheville. At Standing Bear, we ran into a ton of other hikers we knew, and enjoyed hot showers, actual bunk beds, and a nice hot meal. I’m incredibly excited to open up the next chapter of my Far Out guide, signifying that we have survived the Smokies, and completed a significant chunk of the trail already!

Day 20

Sunset views at Max Patch

The group started the day with a hot, muggy, slow climb out of Standing Bear. We saw a trail crew at work, which was pretty dang awesome. Over time, our group split up a bit with DB and Gone-zo going on ahead, and the rest of us slowly trudging along with our sad stomachs. Eventually, we reached Max Patch, where we were welcomed with amazing views, and familiar faces. From there, everyone else headed on to camp, but Sour Patch, Connor and I stayed to catch the sunset and take in the amazing views. After sunset, we walked the two miles to Roaring Fork shelter, and along the way Connor and I made jokes about the predator creeping on us from the darkness. Our jokes ended up creeping out Sour Patch, and the shelter was full, so I ended up sharing their spacious double wall shelter with them. Excited to reach Hot Springs tomorrow, and to sleep through a thunderstorm later tonight!

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.

What Do You Think?