Easter Sunday Hiking

It might be Easter for all of you, but for us, it’s just another day of hiking. We woke up at Wayah Bald Shelter (mile 120.6) and planned to hike to Wesser Bald Shelter (Mile 131.2) with a quick spur trail to the top of Rocky Bald.

Well, the day started pretty usual. Tara got up before me, ate breakfast, and packed. I lagged behind, knowing I needed to eat but having no interest in doing so.

I hate food

For breakfast I forced myself to eat a rice crispy treat, the leftover potato chips, and a fruit roll-up. I may have had 300 calories. Then, I packed a pocket full of snacks and headed back to the trail. About 40 minutes later, we were reunited on a steep hill. We walked for a few miles and then found a viewpoint for a snack, water, and injury treatment. I begrudgingly ate some pretzels and drank some Gatorade – I’m still really struggling, which will play into our story a bit later.

Lagging behind

Tara put some tape on her heel because it was hurting. Then, we continued down the trail. Tara is in the lead again with me behind needing to catch up. I actually started panicking after about ten minutes, as I didn’t appear to be catching up. She was on the right trail, right? She got lost briefly yesterday when she stopped to water the forest while I went on to get us spaces at the shelter. Anyway, I eventually caught up and found she was right where she was supposed to be. Apparently, my sense of time is a bit off today.

Lunch… maybe?

We pressed on up yet another 1,000-foot mountain. Took a brief water break at Cold Creek shelter, and from there were heading to a viewpoint up ahead at the top of the mountain. We ran into a pair of sisters we’ve been seeing daily since Muskrat. They were also having a snack. So we found a cozy patch of earth to have a meal nearby.

Yesterday, after chatting with Shades and her team of thru-hikers / trail angels, it was suggested that we try to eat a bigger meal at lunchtime rather than wait for dinner where we won’t eat.

Lunch… Maybe Not.

So I got out the food pack that I was most excited about, a vegan green curry with all sorts of veggies, used almost two cups of my precious freshly boiled water to rehydrate I then finally took a bite. Welp, it was disgusting. I’ve never had green curry that tasted so bad in my life. I have no idea what the company was thinking, but it was a weird combo of mild coconut, jalapeno, lime, bell peppers, and black pepper.

So now this package weighs about 20ozs, and I can’t just dump it in the forest. I have to carry this disgusting thing up to 16 miles before I find an appropriate trashcan. Part of me wants to wring it into the woods, the rational part knows not to. In my frustration, I tell Tara I’m going to dump it in the gap parking lot, trash can or not. I later reconsider and tell her if I can’t find somebody to take it, I might have to dig a cathole and bury the waste, but I just can’t be carrying 20 extra ounces of inedible and potentially leaky/ smelly food.


Oh, and because I didn’t eat enough calories, well, I was bonked again. I felt like I was hard core slogging through the mud, even when trying to walk downhill. I was mumbling, strumbling, and otherwise umbling again. Fricken disaster. I also didn’t sleep well last night as I stayed up to write this to all of you. So, FML, I was out of gas. I began to doubt that I could do this. At this point I didn’t even know if I could finish walking downhill out of the woods. I hoped for trail magic at the parking lot, but it was Easter, and I assumed folks would be out with their families vs. hiding in a parking lot feeding hungry hikers. (Narrator: she was wrong).

Sloppy Joe’s- A gift from the Heavens

Somehow, 30 minutes later, my miracle Easter wish was fulfilled, and I was in the parking lot with an ice-cold coke in one hand and a sloppy joe in the other. Y’all know me, the idea of eating a sloppy joe is pretty appalling, so you’ll be pleased to know I dug in with reckless abandon and soon became reinvigorated.

I can‘t go on

I had told Flamethrower that I couldn’t go on and climb the 1.4 mile long, 800-foot high mountain ahead of us, but after a second coke and some popcorn I now had the strength to keep going. Tara is going to start hating end-of-day trail magic because it means I might push her further than she wants – we had previously replanned and decided to camp at the base of the mountain in the parking lot because I physically couldn’t go on. At the same time, camping near roads isn’t really advised. Criminals are lazy; they don’t climb mountains to cause problems.

I continued to sit there and chat and even gave chase to a young boy’s nerf football that tried to roll down a steep road. There was also a dog. So by this point, I’m clearly feeling good, and Flamethrower knows that I’m going to make her climb the mountain. She suggests she will go ahead since she’s tired and it’ll take her longer.

Catching Up

I hang out for a while, then begin the hike to catch up. I’m feeling pretty good, but I don’t catch up with Flamethrower until about the halfway point. She actually looks to be moving pretty well. We press on, and I pick some trail-side mint for a boost. I get ahead. Then far-ish ahead. I have plenty of energy when I have fuel in my tank… why I can only eat when trail angels are handing me chips or other food is a bit problematic. I think it’s related to the food being saltier and me depleting all my body’s nutrients. This is a problem I need to solve. Clearly, it’s making it hard for me to go on at times. Which messes with my head.


I get to the top, drop my pack, and I still have some energy. I hate myself for doing it (because I was so tired) but I knew Flamethower was having a harder time of it than me, so I ran back down and took her pack for the last 150 or so feet. Once we were both up, we left the packs and went to check out the fire tower and where we might be able to sleep tonight. There were some stealth campsites by the base of the tower, or we read that we could cowboy camp (no tent) at the top. A couple of day hikers were up there when we arrived, so we decided to pitch our tents on a flat bit at the base. We’re on the Jeep trail / fire road, but the gate down below is locked, so we don’t expect problems.

A Cozy Spot with a View.

We made a plan on where to pee overnight (no privy or any real privacy on this ridge). Then the day hikers leave, and we think we’re alone until one of the sisters pops her head out. She’s cowboy camping at the top. Her sister stayed in the gap below, waiting for a ride to the airport. She only planned to be out here for a week, and now their time together had ended. I was happy that the three of us were up here together. It always feels a bit safer to have groups.

So Much for Peace

Tragically, we were then joined by a loud group of four thru-hikers making so much noise that we could hear them clearly from far below they didn’t settle down till after dark. I hope they’ll be quiet and out quick in the morning. They reportedly did a 20-mile day today, but they all have accents and are Canadian, so I wonder if they actually mean 20km day (12 miles). I kinda hope it’s miles so we won’t have to run into them again, as they’ll get far ahead of us in no time.


The sister came down to cook her dinner since the floor of the fire tower was wood. We hung out and chatted. I didn’t eat dinner but ate about 400 calories in snacks. (Yup, tomorrow is gonna be great – so much potential for bonking – again. You think I’d learn eventually.

Photos and Fear

I went up the tower at sunset to take pictures and hide my food bag – I’ll admit the stairs are scary. For the next few minutes, I took some pictures and hung out at the top with the now five occupants. I asked them not to pee off the tower in our direction. The wind was a bit gusty, but it was a warm night. Tara, who was right behind me, still hasn’t arrived on top. I looked down, and she was in the middle paralyzed by the fear of heights. So I tried to coax her up and even threatened Beary Canilow’s safety (her bear canister), but she wasn’t moving. Eventually, I joined her in the middle, and we climbed down.

Final Thoughts

Note I’m in bed, realizing how little I ate and typing y’all this update instead of sleeping. Oh, I should add that we could have, but didn’t make it all the way to the shelter, so today’s mileage was 9.8 with 2,400 feet of gain that last 0.8 miles that we skipped so that we can sleep at the tower is all downhill. This means tomorrow will be 6.5 miles and only 500-ish feet of gain.

Is it the truth or was I delirious?

While I was bonked, I agreed that 50 miles in four days of hiking may have been pushing it for us and that we should replan the Smokies. The new plan is to get Tara as far as halfway through before sending her to Ashville, NC, to catch a flight home. She’ll have to come back and finish. This means we’ll only need to do 77.6 miles in the next few weeks and won’t be in a rush.

To celebrate this change, we’ve decided to zero at the NOC where there is an onsite restaurant, a little village, and a hostel. The trail goes right through it, too (with a big climb on the other side). Anyway, this means that tomorrow we can feast. I want a giant bowl of pasta with meat sauce, garlic bread, and some other high calorie treats. I have no idea what they serve.

My right foot

My right foot really hurts as I’m lying in bed, so I wrap it in medical tape. The foot was sore as we’re walking too, but everything sorta hurts. I’ll evaluate it more in the morning. Maybe a day off will do me good.

Midnight thoughts.

It’s crazy windy, I’m not sure how the tower people are surviving. But I hear my tent getting buffeted by wind constantly. I’m glad we slept all the way down here.

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Comments 2

  • Nature Boy : Apr 13th

    Thank you for the post, Caroline! Hope all is going OK through the Smokies and that we’ll hear from you soon again (I’ve been away as well, at the eclipse, down in Texas)…

    • Caroline : Apr 15th

      Hi, and thank you! I’m still on the trail and past the 200-mile mark. I also got off the trail for about 4-days to drive to the eclipse (but I saw it in Arkansas 4.17 of totality). I know I’m over 2 weeks behind, I’ll try to catch y’all up tomorrow. I write the posts but hold them for a bit before loading things up.

      Thanks again for the comment, it’s nice to hear from folks who are reading.


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