Days 16-22

Apologies for the long time between posts, service in the smokies was non existent! Thanks for following along everyone. 🙂

Day 16

Fontana dam to Russell field shelter

16.5 miles, mile 180.8

We are in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park! I slept like a rock at the Fontana dam resort last night, however I’m not sure I would stay there again (like I’ll ever be in Fontana dam NC again after this). First world hiker problems here but the laundry was a pretty long walk, and $5.50 for one load and then our room was also not in the main building so we had to walk to that and the wifi didn’t work in the building and there was no cell service. Okay I’m done complaining about it now because it got me a hot shower and a bed for the night. The same people we have been seeing on the trail were also there so we chatted with them for a bit before heading to bed around 9. I fell asleep pretty quick and we woke up around 6:45am but there was a miscommunication with the shuttle and we were waiting in the lobby until 8:30, but that’s okay we got out on trail before 9am and got to camp around 6pm. It was quite the climb to get here, another day of around 5,000 feet of gain. We took it slow and took breaks as needed. There was a fire tower 0.1 miles off trail so we went up there for lunch and I’m so glad we did because it was the only view of the day, but it sure was a beautiful one! We could see the dam which we walked across this morning which was pretty neat. We continued on and got to the first shelter of the smokies, about 13.5 miles into the day and it started pouring rain. We sat inside for a bit before putting on the rain jackets and hustling the last 3 miles to get to this shelter that we wanted to end up at. Once we got here it stopped raining and the sun came out briefly. Hopefully I won’t be too sore tomorrow and we can get another 16 or so miles into this section of trail.

Day 17

Russell field shelter to silers bald shelter

14.7 miles, mile 195.5

Last night we heard coyotes and wild boar right near our campsite. I definitely feel a lot better when there are other people around. The coyotes were yipping and screaming instead of howling so it was kind of spooky, and the boars make quite an interesting noise themselves. We accidentally stopped 1.7 miles short of the shelter we planned to go to today, but that is okay we can add it on to tomorrow. Not a bad thing we stopped a bit short because it absolutely dumped rain on us all afternoon and the trail was a literal river. I was very over walking through ankle deep mud and water for miles and everything on me was completely soaked. I’m attempting to dry my clothes out but I know it’s useless and they will be just as soaked in the morning. Before it poured, we had a good morning and saw a lot of wildlife. Two boars ran out in front of us, a bunny hopped along, turkeys were gobbling, Kevin saw 2 deer when he was going to the bathroom, and a wild grouse hissed and charged at us (now that one scared me).

There was a man we were flip flopping with today and we chatted with him for a bit. We mentioned how we are sleeping in our tents at the shelters to avoid chances of norovirus since it can stick to surfaces for a while, and the smokies are the hot spot for it. He then mentioned how he got his trail name from horrible experiences in shelters so I had to ask what it was. I’m not sure if you are ready for this my family and friends, but his trail name is “third wheel” because some couple decided that a crowded shelter was the perfect place to get it on. That solidified my choice that I will always sleep in my tent at a shelter, unless it is empty. I’m hoping the wildlife will stay away tonight and that it doesn’t rain again. We hit mile 200 and the highest point on the whole trail tomorrow!

Day 18

Silers bald shelter to icewater spring shelter

15.3 miles, mile 210.8

I’m writing this scared in my lil tent as it is severe thunderstorming outside. I had a tent stake fly out because of the wind so I put a rock on and am hoping it will hold through this. Aside from right now sucking, today wasn’t terrible. We hit mile 200 and the highest point in elevation on the trail, Clingmans dome. Unfortunately it was completely socked in and we had absolutely no view. There were a ton of people there and we chatted with some about the hike and what the trail is. People who don’t know about it are always so shocked when I say it’s just shy of 2,200 miles. I guess if I didn’t know about it I would be shocked too. We continued to newfound gap which was popping. I talked with an older woman who was very excited I’m taking the time to do it now because she wishes she did when she was younger, she is 89 years old. I got offered a beer today by a day hiker who asked if I was thru hiking which I sadly could not accept because of my celiac disease but the gesture was very kind. Thankfully it didn’t rain on us during the day and my shorts, shirt, and shoes could dry out as the day went on. There is a puddle forming around my tent now though so hopefully I don’t wake up soaking wet! Tomorrow is a shorter day, and then we will have a long one to get out of the smokies.

Day 19

Icewater spring shelter to tricorner knob shelter

12.6 miles, mile 223.4

It poured all night long and rained all morning until around noon. This section was along a ridgeline and supposedly has amazing views but all we saw was a wall of white at every outlook. The smokies have certainly not won me over and tomorrow is our last day. However the sun did come out around 2 and we are attempting to dry everything out. Due to a shelter closure because a girl got bit on the ass by a bear we had an awkwardly short day today, and will have a longer one tomorrow to get out of here. I’m so excited for this Saturday because mom and Ethan are coming down for a couple days. I will be making him hold his breath before I get a hug because at that point it will be 7 days without a shower… Gross I know. Today was very uneventful, we didn’t see many people or wildlife. Two guys behind us heard some bears but we didn’t end up seeing anything. My legs are feeling good still, we will see if they still are after descending 6600 feet tomorrow to leave the smokies! I can’t say I will miss this section.

Day 20

Tricorner knob shelter to painter branch (stealth camp site)

20.3 miles, mile 243.7

First 20 mile day in the books! And we are out of the smokies now. I hate to say it, but I won’t miss that section. The weather was not great and we didn’t have many views. We cheered as we put the permits in the box as we exited the park. Then we made our way to standing bear farm hostel which is .2 miles off the trail on a gravel road. It was a cute place, but didn’t have many positive comments on FarOut so we just planned to get our resupply box (thank you mom!!), charge our phones, and hike another 2.2 miles to some stealth tent sites by a stream. However, they did give me and Kevin a Snickers bar because I had asked if they had any in their little resupply and they didn’t. It was just our luck that a hiker had a literal box of all Snickers sent there, and never picked it up! So they gave us one each which was very appreciated. We sat there for about 2 hours while our devices charged and ate three clementines that mom packed into our box, fruit is heavy to carry out you know. Something really cool happened today in the last 5 or so miles of the smokies. Kevin saw a deer about 50 feet up trail from is so we stopped and stood very still. The deer actually made its way up the middle of the trail, and stood about 8 feet from us and was staring at us while munching on some leaves on a tree. It was probably about 5 minutes we stood looking at each other so closely. I felt like a Disney princess! We didn’t see many people hiking today, just one guy who ended up near the same tent site as us. Our rock sack is thrown over a branch and we are heating up some dinner now. I might take some ibuprofen tonight after today’s long day.

Day 21

painter branch (stealth camp site) to Bluff Mountain

20.6 miles, 6100 feet of gain, mile 264.3

Whew another 20 mile day today! This one was kind of an accident. We meant to camp at a spot a mile and a half back but it was pretty crowded so we kept going to another tent site that was also full so we kept going up to the summit of bluff mountain and behold there were two great tent spots for us and a great branch to hang our food from. Thankfully most of the elevation gain was in the first part of the day so it made the last bit not as horrible. The highlight of the day was going over Max Patch which is a wide open grassy mountain with great views. We had a later lunch up there and pet a couple adorable pups. Since dogs aren’t allowed in the smokies it’s been a while since I got to ask someone if I could per their dog. Before max patch there was another grassy area with a pretty view, but besides that we were in the woods going up and down all day (seems to be a trend on the AT). I am much hungrier than I thought I would be and am thankful mom and Ethan are coming tomorrow so I can eat more of my food and not worry about running out. I will need to beef up the resupply a bit more. I guess hiking almost 41 miles in 2 days burns quite a bit of calories. I will most certainly be eating a lot the next couple days.

Day 22

Bluff mountain to hot springs

11.1 miles, mile 275.4

Today was cut a bit short because my left quad started to hurt pretty bad and I didn’t want to push it, so instead of 16.5 today we stopped at 11.1 in hot springs. Mom and Ethan came to pick us up after we hung around town for a couple hours. I picked up a pair of gaiters because I get an enormous amount of dirt in my shoes throughout the day and my feet are caked with dirt, it’s nasty. However I did not realize that Velcro is involved and it says to use on new or clean shoes, which mine are neither of those things. I think I’ll carry them and deal with the dirt another 100 miles or so until I need new shoes. I can feel the cushioning compressing a lot after only 275 miles, I might switch up my shoes to a different style. I also got an iced latte here in town and WOW did it hit the spot. I was very self conscious of my smell in the adorable coffee shop that had an Apotheca like vibe. I haven’t been doing any coffee on trail at all and this latte was so amazingly good (and also $6.50.. ouch). I bought kev a lemonade and myself a Snickers bar and ate my tuna in a bag sitting on a bench in town. I love listening to people’s conversations here because instead of “hey how are you doing” it’s “are you having a blessed day?” And instead of “goodbye” it’s “god bless you”. Culture shock as a New Englander in rural Appalachia. It is great to have conversations with people who are always so excited when they see we are thru hiking. Sitting in town we also ran into “swiss Chris” which I’m sure you can deduct from his trail name that he is from Switzerland and is named Chris. We thought he was way ahead of us so it was exciting to see him again! And made us feel good about our pace because he’s super fast. I’m oh so excited to take a shower today, it’s been a whole week! And even more excited to sit in the hot tub tonight. Thanks for sticking with me for this long trail update, hopefully I’ll have better service in the next section!

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