A Relaxing Off Day, and Snow Blankets the Smokies
Getting to the Nantahala Outdoor Center, or the NOC as the cool kids call it, was the goal. I was excited to have a day when I didn’t hike, but I didn’t know it was going to be an action-packed off day. My professor from Emory & Henry brought a raft so we could get on some white water. It was a great way to spend Chaunce’s birthday and a refreshing change of pace. We relaxed and hung out for the rest of the day as we planned our next move.
We took a few days to get to Fontana because we needed to get to the post office and they weren’t open till Monday. Leaving the NOC on a Friday meant we had to stretch the next 31 miles out for a few days. The first night back on trail after our off day was fantastic. Pepa, Chaunce, and I camped on top of Cheoah Bald. The views were endless and the sunset was breathtaking.
After crossing the dam in Fontana we headed into Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This is a place I’ve been holding off on until I could hike through it and it did not disappoint. After dropping off our permits in the hiker box we headed up back up the mountain.
The first destination was Mollies Ridge Shelter. Since we were in the Smokies it is required to stay in shelters and not backcountry camp. We arrived late at Mollies Ridge since the climb up was tougher then expected, but we arrived to a nice big fire made by a few section hikers and tons of room in the shelter.
The next day was a big one. We ended up pushing a 19.5-mile day to get to Double Spring Shelter. Again arriving late because of tough terrain and the continuous feeling of always going up. The Smokies were treating us well with clear skies and warm days. The evenings got cold and the mornings were brisk, giving us that feeling of a higher elevation.
The next day was got to cross Clingmans Dome, which is the highest point on the Appalachian Trail at 6,612 feet. It’s all downhill from here, right? Wrong. We coasted down the mountain for a little until I tripped and cut my whole right shoe open. Luckily Newfound Gap was right around the corner and I could weigh my options there. I was able to contact Altra and get a fresh pair sent to Hot Springs, but there’s one problem: I am 70 miles away. We sat there in the sun for a while and watched as tourists walked by smelling us. As I was enjoying the sun Chaunce was sewing the gash shut. She superglued it afterward and *knock on wood* it’s still holding. We made our way up to Icewater Spring Shelter and camped for the night. We made a tiny little fire and cooked hot dogs to give our taste buds a break from ramen.
We heard Thursday and Friday would be the coldest and possibly wettest so we turned on the jets trying to get out of the higher elevation before it hit. Thursday morning was gloomy and light flurries. It was too cold yet so we just enjoyed the warmth while we could. The park really seemed to open up to us as we passed Charlies Bunion and numerous lookouts. We ended our day at Tri-Corner Knob Shelter. This was the right move because as soon as we arrived the snow started to fall.
We woke up the next morning to snow. Having up to six inches in some spots made the hiking interesting. In the backcountry you seem to have the whole park to yourself, and with added snow made for a memorable day.
Every day new things are happening and I’m getting to see this trail open up to me more and more.
Until next time, happy hiking.
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