One Month! (Smokies to Hot Springs)
I’ve been on the trail for a month tomorrow. It’s hard to believe so much time and so many miles have already passed! The trail since Fontana has been absolutely amazing.
Great Smoky Mountains (Fontana to Gatlinburg)After the lodge, my group stayed at the Fontana Hilton shelter to allow Culture Club to catch up. It was great to see them all again and hear their stories. I hiked with them for the first half of the Smokies through Gatlinburg, TN. It’s interesting how the hiking culture changes in the national park. Thru hikers are required to stay in shelters to reduce the impact of tenting. But if the shelter is full, you are allowed to set up your tent nearby. Most hikers don’t want to stay in the shelters (for fear of catching Norovirus or another communicable disease) so everyone slows their hiking pace way down hoping the shelter will fill up before they get there. One day I took a 2 hour lunch at Rockytop Mountain which I would never have done before national park.
It was a bluebird day when I hiked to Clingmans Dome with Gone Boy and the others. We were all so excited to reach the highest point on the trail and to get some snacks and drinks at the visitor center near the parking lot. Gone Boy and I walked the 0.5 miles off trail only to discover AWOL gave some incorrect information. The visitor center only had bottled water and expensive chocolate bars not the soda and chips we were talking about all day. It was this day I learned the unofficial name of the AWOL guide was “The Book of Lies”. (But honestly AWOL is the man and his book is fabulous.) We got a great group shot from a friendly couple at the top of the tower and prepared to indulge all of our trail cravings the next day in Gatlinburg.
The group resupplied and stayed overnight in Gatlinburg. We had the most delicious pizza at Mellow Mushroom and hit up the free moonshine tastings. Most of the group decided to zero the next day after a little too much moonshine.
The Rest of the Smokies
Gone Boy and I headed out of town and sadly left Culture Club behind again. I really do love that group of people. The following day I decided to do my first 20 mile day to Davenport Gap shelter which meant leaving Gone Boy at Cosby Knob shelter. I was sad to part but I was rushing to Hot Springs. I also wasn’t keen to stay at Cosby Knob since a bear had been hanging around the shelter and stole a hikers food. Apparently the bear didn’t come back but I wasn’t trying to risk it. I left the Smokies by myself the next day. It’s funny hearing people refer to them as the “Soakies”. It only rained once while I was there and it was a light drizzle for a few hours. The weather has been so warm and clear this past month. I imagine the rain has to be coming soon…
Getting to Hot Springs
Thor and Athena arrived late to Davenport Gap shelter and we planned to stay on Max Patch the next day to catch the sunrise. It meant hiking a 17 mile day after the 20 miles. I was hesitant but I had been hiking slow so far so I felt ready to hike longer days. The climb up Snowbird Mountain was 5 miles long and I swore I would die the whole way. It was the first really hot day and I ran out of water at the summit after some poor planning. I made it to Max Patch for the sunset though so it was all worth it. The view was absolutely stunning. I think it is my favorite view so far on the AT.
I woke up early for the sunrise and left early to hike another 17 miles to the shelter just outside of Hot Springs. MoLa (another Appalachian Trials blogger) showed up there and we hiked in to Hot Springs the next morning together. I’m staying at Elmer’s Sunnybank Inn with her and a few others I know. Even though I’m technically hiking the trail by myself, I’m never alone. Several times a day I run into people I know but haven’t seen for awhile and it’s like seeing old friends. The trail community is so welcoming. I’m looking forward to a delicious vegetarian dinner and breakfast at Elmers and then most likely leaving in the morning. Hopefully I’ll be in Erwin, TN in a few days. Happy Trails!
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