Highest point on the AT
We woke up that morning and took quite a while to convince ourselves to get out of our warm sleeping bags. We waited there for quite some time. The whole shelter cleared out and the five of us were still in our sleeping bags. We laid around smoking in our sleeping bags for quite some time. Finally, we crawled out of our bags and dealt with the cold, rainy day.
We started hiking, and planned for a big mile day. After hiking 3 miles in the rain, we got to Spence Field shelter. A couple of other hikers had started a fire, and we all huddled around it trying to warm up and dry off.
Fires are definitely a motivation killer on a cold day. We all lost any drive to hike on to where we wanted to be, and grabbed some spots in the shelter. We hung around for a while playing cards as people started to show up. We shared the shelter that night with a couple hikers we had met earlier and a ridge runner named Nick. Everyone was freezing, but a couple of people assured us that it wouldn’t snow that night.
We were all laying in our sleeping bags when Nick asked if anyone had any AA batteries for his insulin pump. To everyone’s dismay, we could only find AAA batteries. Luckily, Itchy came to the rescue with some tinfoil, an AAA battery and some toilet paper. It wasn’t the best possible situation, but it definitely did the trick for Nick’s insulin pump.
After the eventful night, everyone woke up to see snow on the ground. Being from Phoenix, it was a nice change of pace for me; for everyone else, it was a terrible way to start the morning. We all adjusted pretty quickly to the fact that it was below freezing, and even started enjoying it. We were throwing snowballs and having a great time.
Hiking was definitely the best way to warm up. We climbed up and up to the top of Rocky Top mountain. Once we reached the top, more snow started to fall. It was pretty beautiful to see.
We hiked on for the rest of the day until we reached Derrick Knob shelter. We planned to keep hiking, but when we got to the shelter, there was yet another fire. As we learned from our previous experience, there was no way to escape the lure of the shelter.
Everyone sat around the shelter trying to dry all their clothes and shoes. Itchy even burned a nice hole in his shoe after putting it too close to the fire. A couple of section hikers made the same mistake with their socks.
Finally, everyone learned their lesson and tried to warm up in sleeping bags instead. A very generous section hiker came into the shelter offering snickers and skittles, and we were all quick to grab them up.
After hiking so few miles the last couple days, our group decided that it would be a good idea to wake up really early and hike to Clingman’s Dome, so we could hitchhike to Gatlinburg. Other hikers laughed and scoffed at the idea, saying that we wouldn’t actually do it. However, we all woke up at 4 A.M. that morning, and got out of the shelter by 5.
We were all bundled up with headlamps and all. It was so foggy and snowy that we couldn’t see further than 5 feet in front of us. We got to see the sunrise that morning, and it made the night hike all worth it. It started warming up, and we kept hiking. We passed by some turkeys and learned that KitKat can make the exact same noise as turkeys.
We kept hiking until we reached Silas Bald shelter. Here, we ate lunch and prepared for the climb to the top of Clingman’s Dome. We hiked out and finally, reached the highest point on the AT. We hung around for a while, played in the snow, and watched as tourists complained about the .5 mile “hike” from the parking lot to the tower.
We walked down to the parking lot and managed to get a ride pretty quickly. Gatlinburg was just minutes away. Five Guys was calling our name.
We finally got into Gatlinburg, and raced down the street to Five Guys. We each devoured our burgers and fries. Next thing on the agenda was finding a hotel room. We headed up to the Microtel, checked in and started unwinding. We hung out with Mowgli, Oatmeal, and Butterscotch for a while, ran some errands and grabbed some food at Howard’s. I would not recommend going there, it was overpriced, and the food was not worth it.
We ended the night in the hot tub at the LeConte Inn and all ventured back to our respective rooms.
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