I Can See For Miles and Miles
When we last saw our intrepid hikers, Snowy Owl and Buttermeister, they were about to be challenged by the Smoky Mountains.
Boy oh boy were we challenged!
Our first four days in the Smokies were tough but doable, with clear skies and mild temperatures. However as we approached the highest peak on the AT, Clingmans Dome, snowflakes began to fall. As we had already hiked nearly eight miles, we elected to stay overnight in Double Spring shelter with hiker buddies rather than continue the five miles up and over the mountain to the next shelter.
The next morning started out cold at 20 degrees but bright and clear. Amazing views opened up on both sides of the ridge as we hiked up the mountain. Luckily I stopped to take photos as the clouds soon began moving in. By the time we reached the iconic tower at the summit, flurries had turned to a snowstorm. Oh! And the tower was the 200-mile marker!
Slip Sliding Away
At first, the snow-covered forest was enchanting but as the snow continued, the weather began to feel threatening. We decided not to stop at the next shelter and instead to hike down to the road at Newfound Gap to hopefully catch a ride into Gatlinburg.
Ranger Dave To The Rescue
We finally made it to a parking lot and Chris pulled out his phone, searching in vain for a signal. Just then, a huge SUV labeled with an NPS insignia barreling down the road swerved into the parking lot. The Forest Ranger at the wheel rolled down his window.
“You folks planning to camp out tonight?”
“No, we trying to get a shuttle into town,” Chris replied.
“The road is closed. They closed it at noon because of the storm.”
We looked at each other, then back at him.
“What do you suggest we do, sir?”
“Well, you can climb into the back of my vehicle & I can drive you into Cherokee.”
You never saw two people move so fast to get in the back seat of an SUV. Ranger Dave picked up another frozen hiker before depositing us in town.
Cherokee was a sweet little town made all the sweeter by the reunion with our bestest pup, Bodhi. He had spent the last week at Loving Care Kennels while we hiked the Smokies. Many hugs, scritches & licks were delivered.
Back on the Trail
We shuttled to Green Corner Road and resumed our trek, now heading towards Hot Springs, NC. We spent one night at Laughing Heart hostel —a lovely place with wonderful people — before continuing. The AT actually runs straight down the center of town!
Sunny Days and New/Old Friends
One interesting aspect of thru-hiking is the way you lose track of buddies on the trail only to have them pop up again much later. Traveling at different speeds, taking breaks at different times, and recovering from injuries all contribute to our personal hiking friends being spread out over at least 200 miles!
Bodhi continues to be everyone’s favorite hiker and proves his talents as an unofficial therapy dog over and over again. I believe our newest hiking buddy, Locke, has adjusted her hiking speed just so she can get some Bodhi attention at camp each night. The lovely thing is that Bodhi enjoys these interactions as much as the people do.
Escaping the Rain
Every hiker dreads packing up their tent in the rain and carrying the extra water weight until the sun comes back out. After the harrying rock cliffs of Big Firescald Knob on Easter Sunday (and achieving the 300 milestone!) and a steady downpour Sunday night, we opted to leave the trail Monday to dry out in town. This time we’re in Erwin, TN to clean up and resupply.
So Many Stories!
Our AT adventure will provide stories (and dare I say, sermons?) for years to come. Hitchhiking and riding into town in the back of a pickup truck. Waiting for a shuttle in Icecream Man’s van. Bodhi throwing up in the tent (twice!) in the middle of the night. Having to put on full rain gear before going out to pee first thing in the morning. And these all happened in the last 48 hours!
Stay tuned for further adventures from Snowy Owl, Buttermeister, and Wigglebutt as we head into northern Tennessee!
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