Days 16-20: Newfound Gap (ish) to Max Patch (ish)
Pizza Buffets, horses, gorgeous views and more. I loved the smokies!
The last five days flew by. I can’t believe it’s already time to update again. I’ve decided to include a (+) or (-) next to the daily grade so you can get a feel for whether I ascended (+) or descended (-) more that day.
Hiking from: Mt Collins Shelter
To: Newfound Gap
Total grade: 408.6 ft/mile (-)
Motivation: Get into Gatlinburg in time for the hiker rate at the Bearskin Lodge
Favorite part of the day: Cici’s Pizza Buffet
Comments: Day 16 was short because we wanted a full day in Gatlinburg as long as the road was open from Newfound Gap. It started raining at around 2 am and we left camp around 6 am. We ended up getting to Newfound Gap at 9:30, just in time for the free shuttle provided by the local First Baptist Church. We packed into the shuttle with a bunch of other hikers (all very cool) and made our way to the NOC which opened at 10 AM. We got there at 9:50 and waited (impatiently) for the doors to open so we could escape the rain. At 10:01, we rushed to the front desk and asked for a thru-hiker reference to the bearskin lodge (how you can secure a hiker rate of $65, $77 after tax). We were rushing because (word on FarOut) they only hold two rooms for hikers per day. We got it! Then we treated ourselves to Cici’s Pizza Buffet and walked around Gatlinburg. It’s a funny little town with lots of tourist attractions. We got into the hotel around 4 and proceeded to shower, lay down, and eat candy (in that order). A wonderful day.
Hiking from: Bearskin Lodge
To: Bearskin Lodge
Miles: 0 (Zero day!!)
Total grade: 0
Motivation: Sleep and rest!
Favorite part of the day: Going back to sleep after deciding to take a zero
Comments: I woke up at 6 am on day 17 and looked around the hotel room. It was an extremely nice hotel with two queen size beds and a huge shower. It was paradise. But then I looked out the window: pouring rain. I checked my weather app and it looked like this:
If your first instinct isn’t “Maybe the universe is saying take a zero”, I don’t know what. So we walked down to the front desk to double-check check we could get the hiker rate for a second night. We could! The rest of the day was full of rest, food, and being grateful for a cozy bed out of the rain.
Hiking from: Newfound Gap
To: Tri-Corner Knob Shelter
Total grade: 506.4 ft/mile (+)
Motivation: See more of the smokies
Favorite part of the day: the views!
Comments: This day only confirmed our decision to take a zero and skip the rain. It started with getting a hitch from a very nice man named Jim who is a member of the Sevierville First Baptist Church. This is the same church that does the free shuttles from Newfound Gap, but that morning the 8:30 AM shuttle was all full. Jim picked us up without even knowing about his church’s normal service. It was just out of the goodness of his heart! Thanks, Jim! Then we were back in the smokies. This day spoiled us with clear, gorgeous views. We ended the day with a cold night, but that’s to be expected in the smokies.
Hiking from: Tri-Corner Knob Shelter
To: Standing Bear Farm
Total grade: 504.9 ft/mile (-)
Motivation: Exit the smokies
Favorite part of the day: Fire at Standing Bear
Comments: My knees certainly felt this day. While we still enjoyed beautiful views of the smokies, they weren’t as common as day 18. The morning was really cold, so we had an early start to get our blood moving. We were visited by horses a little after lunch which was a pleasant surprise. They were patiently waiting on the trail for their owners who were busy cutting down some of the fallen trees. Absolutely adorable. We visited Mt Cammerer Fire Tower which was a 1.2 side trail but with a rewarding view. Then we descended for hoursssss to Standing Bear Farm. Before reaching Standing Bear, we were fortunate enough to be greeted with trail magic by Goodwill and some others at Interstate 40. We tented at Standing Bear and enjoyed the company of some other hikers and a fire. I loveeee the outdoor shower at Standing Bear. The whole place felt like an adult camp meets whimsical fairy land. Yes, it’s hiker trashy, but not in a way I minded. Overall, good experience.
Hiking from: Standing Bear Farm
To: Roaring Fork Shelter
Total grade: 532.9 ft/mile (+)
Motivation: Trail Magic at Max Patch (I missed it but got great views instead)
Favorite part of the day: Reaching Max Patch
Comments: This day was tough. It started with a steep incline on an uneven trail (which really irritates my calves). This went on for what seemed like forever but it was only about 2.5 hours. Then you’re rewarded with a somewhat trashed (literally) view at Snowbird Peak. It was a lot of going down only to go up again on day 20. We heard whisperings of trail magic at max patch and given that I’d eaten most of my food spare a small cup of mashed potatoes, that became my motivation. While we missed the trail magic, Max Patch was gorgeous and only 2 miles from our shelter so the worst was over (meaning we could actually enjoy the view). We cooked the remainder of our food and prepared for our hike to Hot Springs the next day.
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