Recollection Series-Gatlinburg Has US
Gatlinburg Day 1
Becky and I hike about 5 miles to Clingmans Dome from Silers Bald Shelter on the morning of Sunday, May 7th. Ash had gotten to the parking area earlier and already secured us a ride to resupply. Our trail angels were a couple ladies who had been hiking but decided to instead help hikers when the snow hit the Smokys. They drove us to Walmart and McDonalds in Pigeon Forge before taking us back to a hotel in Gatlinburg.
We messed up and got a hotel that didn’t have laundry so Nancy Drew went on the case and got someone at the front desk to offer keys to their car so we could go to the laundromat. They actually gave her their car. Crazy. After laundry, I end the night at Texas Roadhouse with Ash as Becky turned in early. We talk about the need to start doing more miles over steak and beer.
Gatlinburg Day 2
Zeroing in Gatlinburg is tough. Our no laundry lodge is having difficulty maintaining their wifi. Why am I here? Shower, laundry, wifi. This place is only satisfying one of those needs. We try to calm ourselves from the frustration of the spotty wifi by walking down the street and hitting up all the free wine tasting spots.
Gatlinburg Day 3
Yep. That’s a Day 3 title. Like 1 and 2 were not enough for one town there is a 3 with the assumption that more are to come. Is this an AT hike or a Gatlinburg vacation?
This is the day we get back on trail! Ash invites us to go eat in the morning with his friend Danny and then we could ride back to the trail together. Ash met Danny and his daughter when they camped out on top of the same viewing Tower a couple weeks back. Danny told Ash to give him a call when he got into Gatlinburg and they would get lunch. Becky and I agree lunch and a ride to the trailhead sound good.
Danny is a good guy. His interest is the same as most people who help out thru-hikers: they are interested in finding out firsthand information about thru-hiking. He picks us up as we rush out of the room after the posted checkout time. We hit the go-carts first. Danny passed Becky and myself on the last lap as we started to be interested more in swapping taps than racing for first. Just saying. That Briggs N Stratton Mt Dew Doritos machine the boys in the garage gave me that day couldn’t be beat even if you put my daughter in the driver seat. ***spits tobacco***
We grab pizza and get a text that Potato and Bison have reached Gatlinburg. Danny suggests that the five of us go with him to a lake house and grill out steaks. Oh shit. We need to be hiking. Potato and Bison text back they have already paid for a room. We say, “So”, and drive over to the motel to pick them up. I am an active participant in giving the okay for a second zero in a row. Ouch.
We drove, what felt like an hour, to Danny’s lake house. It’s nice. His wife, son and girlfriend, daughter and her husband and kid join us for dinner. We play pool while the food comes together and Ash and I defeat Danny and a combination of Bison and Becky as his partner four games to three. It was revenge for the go-cart loss and it was sweet. I got a video of Becky sinking the winning shot to force game 7. Clutch.
Gatlinburg Day 4
The next morning we make breakfast. Danny is on bacon and I am on eggs. May 10th sounds a little early for a swim but don’t tell us that. After breakfast we hang out on the dock getting some sun. Becky and Danny are the only two smart enough not to jump in.
Danny starts talking about having to get back to work and we set off for Gatlinburg. Bison and Potato need to resupply so we get Danny to drop us off at Walmart in Pigeon Forge. There is a trolley service that we can catch in the parking lot that will take us all the way back to the last light in Gatlinburg before the Smokys.
The trolley, after a few transfers, drops us off in the parking lot of the motel we originally picked up Bison and Potato the day before. It is too late to start hiking. Another day, another zero. We have to break this hold that Gatlinburg has on us. As we pass by an open door at the motel we run into Betty Crocker, Annie Love, and Kelly staying next door. Becky and I have not seen Betty Crocker since we spent time together in Helen, GA. It is fun for everyone to catch up. Our trail angel lake house story is a hit.
Gatlinburg Day 5
Becky and I rise early enough to catch a shuttle with Betty Crocker and Kelly to Clingmans Dome. Our shuttle driver is named Carl (no, that isn’t his real name). Along with being a shuttle driver Carl is a Judge Magistrate. He tells us the inside story on the fires last year. Also, despite his heavy body type that you would normally associate with someone who sits at their job all day, Carl also does helicopter rescues. He doesn’t fly the helicopter. No. Carl repels down to administer care. Sixteen rescues last year. Carl gives us tips about the trail but I’m skeptical of any information I’ve heard from Carl.
Becky and I hiked about 8 miles to Newfound Gap. The trail was tough after so many zero days. Newfound Gap has a large parking area and it was easy to find a ride back into Gatlinburg. What? What are we doing? We just got out of there. The next shelter was only three miles ahead and, of course, uphill. A quick ride to the motel was an easy alternative decision.
When we get back to the hotel Annie Love is just leaving for dinner. We just about invite ourselves and meet up with her friends Coffee and Lucky Star, All you can eat salad bar! We hiked so we deserved it. During dinner Ash sends a text from Newfound Gap and we tell him our sad situation of sitting in a restaurant. He finds a ride into town and joins us.
Gatlinburg Day 6
The next day in a money saving attempt we tried to hitchhike back to Newfound Gap instead of paying the shuttle cost. A young guy with what looked like his brother and mom wouldn’t even look at Becky when she asked for a ride at the first road pull off in the Smokys. Six straight days of being able to shower still didn’t wear the hiker trash look off of us.
We walk back into town a little bit to eat and have some drinks. Where has this hike gone wrong? We’ve walked 13 miles over the last 6 days. Instead of paying for the shuttle this morning we instead opted to save money and paid for food, drinks, and then the shuttle. We even joke about taking another zero.
It rains which keeps us in the bar. We finally call the shuttle. We walk out of the bar on the main strip and straight into the van when it gets to our destination. This is the moment we break the hold that Gatlinburg had on us.
When we get dropped off at Newfound Gap sitting under a tarp are Potato and Bison. They had stopped short of Newfound Gap the day before and was just getting there today. They were thinking about going into Gatlinburg. NO!! We cannot entertain those thoughts. One more day would be a full week in the same town. That is not how long hikes get completed.
We hike on. Only 3 miles to Icewater Spring Shelter but that counts. The curse is broken. We up our output to 16 miles in 6 days. We are still in the Smokys but at least we are hiking again and a our current fancy pants club of Potato, Ash, and Bison are still together. To get done with this hike that group needs to hike more and zero less.
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