Finally Getting Out of the Smokies

Day 39

Cosby Knob Shelter to Standing Bear Hostel miles 10.4 – AT mile 241.8

Card of the Day – King of Cups

As we knew it might be a challenging day and we wanted to get a bunk at the hostel we were up and out by 8.30.  This feels like the right kind of time any way as it gives you an hour or so after the sun is fully up.

As I set out for a time I smelt the spring flowers more than I smelt myself.  The air was full of that scent you only get from wildflowers first thing in the morning, and it was delightful.  I, however, have not been able to fully launder my clothes since before entering the Smokies, meaning I don’t quite have the vocabulary to quite describe my pungent aroma.

There was a hill that mostly went down for about 5 miles today and Underhill set himself the challenge to run into Davenport Shelter.  He did this feat in 1.03h.  I don’t think I could run anywhere for over an hour, let alone on some winding slippery stone- and root-filled dirt path, but he looked amazing by the time I got to him, so he clearly enjoyed it.

As I was meandering down the hill I saw some spring flowers and a massive butterfly.  Spring really is starting to spring and it’s rather wonderful to be out in nature all day, at least it is whilst the sun shines.

I got to the shelter by 1130 and we all decided to wait for us all to be there together, so we could put our permits in together, marking the end of our time in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was so buggy as we waited and I think I got bitten a few times. I guess it won’t be long until we have to take bugs and ticks seriously.

As we left the gap to the road we were greeted by Firewalker, a trail angel who had hiked the AT twice.  He had hot dogs and beer. What a guy! I do not know why people do this amazing thing, but I guess it’s paying it forward and I would definitely do the same thing next year if I could.

You come out of Davenport Gap, and naturally there is a massive stairwell to climb.  At the top of the ridge all you can hear is the roar of the traffic.  There is an motorway on the other side of the ridge.  It feels odd to hear the trucks roll past after such a long period of silence, more or less.

Anyway, as is the way of these things, you turn another corner and lose the sound of the traffic and find yourself in an amazing valley walking next to a river that you cross on and off, listening to the water as it falls down with you as you descend.  I can’t help but think about how many people dive past this place and don’t even know it’s there.  Their loss is our gain.

We get to Standing Bear Hostel, which can best be described as a bit of a hippie commune lost in the woods.  There is a cabin here that we have been able to hire for the 5 of us, and I can honestly say my bed was the most comfortable thing I’ve put my head down on in what feels like history, but is probably more a reflection on the last few nights out camping.

I was fortunate enough to sit chatting with momma bear in the kitchen.  I told her how I’m not sure why I’m here and how I’m starting to worry about getting to the end. She told me not to worry, that it will all work out just fine, and the miles will come in the mid states.  I don’t know if I’m getting all worked up over nothing.  But after Trail Days, whether I like it or not, I’ve got to do at least 17 miles per day.  She also told me to stop thinking about it or it will take over my hike, and that felt like very good advise indeed.

The resupply was OK but had no dehydrated meals.  They do however have condoms and a pregnancy test, you know, because these items are important to the average hiker.

Dinner at the hotel was simple but tasty.  There were coronation chickpeas, which were good but lead to the obvious reaction all night.

We lit some incense on the porch to get rid of the bugs as we sat and chilled with a few beers.  All in all it was a good place to recuperate after the challenge of the last week.

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Comments 11

  • Curt Smith : Apr 19th

    What an adventure! Just tell yourself that when you sweat the time frame. My son (Squatch) hiked it in 2018 in 152 days it rained and rained that year so he got more motel rooms more than he planned but anyway the miles will come. I hiked the end of it with him and almost had to jog to keep up. I think his best day was 26 miles!! Enjoy and take it all in!

    • Craigen : Apr 19th

      Good advise, thanks I’ll keep it in mind!

  • Jingle bells : Apr 19th

    Thanks for sharing. Enjoy your posts.
    Everyone has their own pace. I’ve been noticing your miles and figured that’s your pace. But IF it is not your desired*** pace- you may consider changing something to yield more speed:
    1) even if you think you found your best shoes you may not have. I’m on my “perfect shoe” #3 and honestly it almost feels like cheating compared to the previous two, which I adored at the time. Avoided these third shoes forever due to price and weight- I was wrong. The improvements they make on my comfort level allow me to enjoy the trails dramatically more, and faster if I so choose.
    2) even if you think you’re down to the minimum comfortable/safe pack weight, you may not be. I know, echo echo echo… but it’s true

    Good luck and look forward to reading more!

    • Craigen : Apr 19th

      Yeh I think it is my pace right now. At some I’ll need to change gear and get my hike on but until trail days at least I’m going to just enjoy the journey!

    • Robin : Apr 22nd

      So what is the brand shoe that you found (#3)?

      • Jingle bells : Apr 23rd

        1 sportiva wildcats incredibly comfy, durable enough, great grip, confidence, but unavoidable blisters despite all efforts
        2 altra lone peaks solve blisters with wide toe, lightweight helps, good/great grip, a little too soft underside on rocks, zero drop shape even with an upgraded insert cause undue stress to calves
        3 goldilocks- Altra Olympus***. A mix of wildcats comfort/durability/cushion and lone peaks wide toe box and reductive weight while also including Velcro for gaiters. Changed my hiking life.

        • Craigen “Cool Breeze” Smith : Apr 28th

          In the end I went for Topo’s

        • jdg : May 1st

          So are those low top hiking shoes?

      • Craigen “Cool Breeze” Smith : Apr 23rd

        I’ve not got new ones yet, I’m trying to find a replacement for my Merrell’s

  • Seamus Odell : Apr 20th

    Enjoy the view and freedom . Depending on how you feel that day your body will set
    The pace . Slainte !

    • Craigen “Cool Breeze” Smith : Apr 23rd

      Very true! Smiles before miles!


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