Gatlinburg, 200 miles in, the Smoky Mountains, and Physical Exhaustion

I’m sitting in a Laundromat in Gatlinburg TN waiting to dry out after a couple more days of rain. The Smokies have been a wild ride so far. We started in Fontana village for a night before hiking 14 miles in.

The few days previous had all been fairly difficult. Lots of big climbs with lots of little climbs in-between. I thought leaving the NOC was the hardest climb i’d done that far and I was Probably right for all of a day. For each of those climbs every time I mentioned how hard it felt someone would pipe up “just wait for the Smokies”.

The first 3 miles leaving Fontana village were mostly road walking. We walked across the Fontana Dam and then up a road that led to the permit drop off then into the Smokies themselves. The next 11 miles were difficult but not nearly as bad as people had made them out to be.

I think just about everyone I talked to the first day in the Smokies had gotten a false sense of confidence. The number of people I heard say some variation of “I think I finally have my trail legs” was very high. No one was saying that the second day.

Day two in the Smokies kicked just about everyone’s ass. No incredibly high climbs but constant up and down and up and down then big up and big down then more up and down. I was beat by the time I got to camp.

We sat around a small weather radio trying to hear what our future had in store and were scared once we found out. Rain, rain, cold, wind and rain were what it looked like for the next few days. Spirits were low to say the least.

I woke up to light rain on my tarp. I was damp but not wet and it seemed most faired about the same. I started hiking in the rain and surprisingly it started to let up. The day turned sunny and bright by about 11am.

That was yesterday, I hiked alone for most of the day and felt pretty good. By about 2pm I climbed Clingman’s dome and crossed the 200 mile mark.

There were a lot of non hikers at Clingman’s dome and someone asked if I was thru hiking. “Yeah, I just crossed 200 miles.” I responded. People seemed to take notice at that and I ended up chatting with a few people and answering a bunch of questions about the trip and the trail that far.

The rest of the day absolutely kicked my ass. The climb down was covered in loose rocks and shale and my ankles were killing me by the time I reached the bottom. It took me about 2 hours to hike 2 miles then I laid in the grass next to the trail for about half an hour before getting up and climbing another mountain to get to the shelter.

I’ve realized one of my favorite parts of the day is getting to camp, sitting at the shelter, and going “HEEYYYY” to greet each person who wanders in after me. Fun to greet people and see who made it that far in the day.

I’ve been hiking with two guys named Atlas and Pressure D and they wanted to get up early to get into Gatlinburg the next day. It was 5 miles to Newfound Gap, then we could go into town, get a meal, resupply, and do 3 miles at the end of the day to the next shelter. Seemed easy.

It rained from about 9pm till about 9am the next day. I managed to stay dry through the night but had to hike that 5 in the rain the next morning. I woke up at about 4:30am and didn’t trust myself to wake up early enough to hike with my friends so I just stayed up. We got the the gap at around 10am and managed to get into town before noon.

We grabbed a burger at a brewery and have just been wandering around town. Gatlinburg is an odd place. Very touristy. It seems Ripley’s believe it or not runs most of the attractions apart from ski lifts that will bring you up the mountains to hike or ski in the winter. Definitely a bit of a shock having been on trail for nearly 3 weeks. There’s a car meet for Ford Broncos going on in town so there are a lot of cool Broncos driving around.

More than anything though I’m just exhausted. There’s a free trolly that runs through town and I’m sitting on it heading as close to the trail as I can get knowing I still have to find a ride for the 15 miles back to the trail and then hike the 3 miles to the shelter. I hope my body can keep up with my intentions.

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Comments 1

  • Julie : Apr 21st

    “I hope my body can keep up with my intentions.” Great, great line. And it can! I mean, heck, what do I know? But from my experience, the mind is more limited than the body. Regardless, have fun! 🙂


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