Smokies Part 1: The Week in Review
Welcome back! I just exited the Smokey Mountains, and boy do I have a story for you. I am going to be splitting this up into two posts because so much has happened it’s hard to fit it in one. I will also be using the second post to highlight some type one diabetes specific things I had to deal with.
The past week has been one of the most physically taxing things I’ve done in my life. There were highs, lows, and a lot of snow. Without further ado, let’s dive in!
Day 1: Fontana Hilton to Russell Field
Day 1 into the Smokies started bright and early for me. I left the Fontana Hilton (largest shelter in the AT!) around 6am.
I immediately started sweating from the humidity and started the arduous trudge out of the valley and back into the mountains. The trek up felt like I was walking through a sauna. Around 10am I got to the Shuckstack fire tower. Unfortunately, the view was submerged in fog.
A few miles later I met up with Lady Mae and Firefly who were just getting a start to the day. I met up with them again at lunch where we enjoyed the balmy weather and beautiful fields of wild flowers on the mountain.
I continued on, enjoying the fact it finally felt like spring. I hit camp at 3pm that day and settled in for the night.
Day 2: Russell Field to Double Spring Gap
This was an absolutely gorgeous day. I woke up with the sun shining and quickly cranked through 8 miles.
I got some amazing views on rocky top and silently cursed through a few uphills. I had lunch at Derrick Knob shelter, and then pushed through the last 7 miles to camp.
I was super excited to stay at Double Spring Gap shelter. I had been there about five years before on spring break. That trip was the first encounter I had with thru hikers. I distinctly remember them talking about hitting 200 miles, pulling a 20 into town the next day, and that us section hikers had way too nice of food.
It was amazing to be there as a thru hiker myself, to be excited to hit 200 miles the next day, and to be gorging myself on tuna and instant mashed potatoes.
Day 3: Double Spring Gap to Icewater Spring
Today started like all the rest. Cold, partly cloudy, and uphill. I started the 3 mile climb to Clingmans Dome where I not only hit the 200 mile mark, but hit the tallest point on the AT. I started the descent towards Newfound Gap with a spring in my step. Everything was going great, and then the clouds rolled in.
I knew going into the Smokies that I would hit a winter storm. However, since the last time I had checked the weather, the storm had increased in size and severity.
I went as fast as I could down to Newfound Gap. I spent a quick lunch eating some clif bars in the womens bathroom (it’s heated!) and made the three mile uphill trek to Icewater spring.
At Icewater I met some of the most awesome people yet. Awesome because 1. We were all still on trail despite the weather and 2. Their humor matched mine very well. 90% of the people I had run into that day were getting off due to the weather. We tried to decide if we were insane, badasses, or both as we watched the snow fall.
Day 4. Icewater Shelter to Tri-Corner Knob
Winter storm day two. The morning started with frozen shoes and shattered dreams. Well ok, that’s a bit dramatic. But it was cold and morale was definitely low. We trudged 12.5 miles that day. It was long, but we made it!
I am purposely keeping this day on the short side. A lot more went into it, but I am saving all that for my next post.
Day 5: Tri-Corner Knob to Davenport Gap
Our fifth day in the Smokies dawned with blue sky, sunshine, and 45 degree weather. The first two hours of the day were spent hiking through the foot deep snow that had been dumped the days before.
I had a hot lunch at the next shelter which was super exciting! The snow gradually turned to slush, then a trail river, then mud. Despite the wet feet I had a fantastic day, and arrived at camp in a wonderful mood.
Myself and my fellow hikers all reminicsed on how just 24 hours before, we had been contemplating frozen toes and dreaming about a glimpse of the sun. We all agreed we had officially earned our thru-hiking merit badges. If we can survive the Smokies, we can do anything.
The next day we hiked 4 miles out of the Smokies. It was bittersweet to be leaving such an amazing place behind, but also glad to leave the trials of the past few days there was well.
I will actually be saving my diabetes update for part two of my Smokies adventure. A lot goes into to keeping yourself safe as a type one diabetic, especially in the midst of a winter storm. Stay tuned, until next time!
Don’t get Dead,
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