Trail Update #3: the week spring sprung

(Except not really because it’s rumored there’ll be snow later this week, but anyway…)

*also, sorry for the delay! I haven’t had service in days. Updates since I drafted this are in italics. 

The week, in Summary

Last week we hiked from Franklin, NC, through the Nantahala Outdoor Center and Fontana Dam, to (and into) Great Smoky Mountain National Park. We went up, and then went down, more than 17,500 feet over 70 miles almost 26,000 feet over 100 miles which, in case you’re wondering, is a lot. This stretch was really challenging, both physically and mentally. Just a lot of steep climbing and steep descending, and then being able to see Fontana Dam for MILES and Clingman’s Dome for a while before actually getting there which really messes with my head. (As in all the way to Fontana I was thinking, “Are we there yet?!?! There is hot water and laundry and french fries and ice cream and I can take my pack off down there and why am I not there yet and how long does this go on?!?!?” for about 3 hours.)

The descent into the Nantahala Outdoor Center is notoriously steep, and it was, but so far it’s been my favorite section of the trail because it’s filled with fun scrambles, hairy drop-offs, and panoramic views.

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Plus the day we got to NOC was a resupply day, meaning our packs were at their lightest possible weight, which makes everyone happy. Resupply days or town days on the trail are like Friday nights/ Saturdays off-trail: they are filled with potential, and you feel buoyed with freedom (or in our case, literally buoyed by not carrying pounds of food for the upcoming days and buoyed by the thought of not having to carry your pack at all). First days out of town on the trail are like Monday mornings: it’s nice to get back to your routine but you also feel bogged down by the weight of responsibility (or in our case, food), and you’re no doubt trudging uphill. (j/k everyone from work! I miss you. 😉😘)

We’re currently about 37 40 miles into the Smokies, my favorite park – though as I’m writing this it’s not being very hospitable! Our first day in the Smokies was 70 and gorgeous; the second day it was 50 with torrential rain; today was kinda chilly; and now the forecast is for 2-4 8-10 inches of snow in the rest of the week??!? Walking in the rain was really really not fun, but the crew and I are currently traveling with a big, fun group so it’s not so bad when the trail becomes a river and you’re literally wringing out your socks and underwear and insoles if you’re all doing it together. (Actually, to be frank, it was really pretty bad and I was totally miserable 😱😩🤣.)

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One more short day and then Now we’re zeroing in Gatlinburg to eat all the breakfast buffets Mellow Mushroom in town, wash clothes, and poooooosssssibly go to Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede if I can convince the crew (spoiler: pretty sure nobody’s going to be convinced). (Update: they may actually be on board!!) This last stretch has left us pretty tired, and we’re all we were all carrying the bare minimum of food, so looking forward to stuffing our faces and resting our legs. but we got the most amazing trail magic on our last stretch into town this morning from the Sole Mates hiking club and Hike Hunter!! Thank you all so much for the much needed pick-me-up and calories!  

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More Milestones

This week we also hit 200 miles and went past the highest part of the whole trail at Clingman’s Dome, elevation 6,612 feet. Being at Clingman’s Dome was strange, I felt like a spectacle or zoo animal with lots of clean and civilized people staring at me. (Maybe it had a little something to do with me eating Nutella off myself after Sir Poops-A-Lot accidentally knocked my Nutella tortilla out of my hands and onto my shorts – face down. Maybe? Hey, I was hungry, and Nutella is delicious). But in all seriousness, I did feel completely out of place and relieved to go back into the woods. 

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In Other News

I’m pretty sure I have poison ivy. Thank you to everyone who has provided me with virtual diagnoses and recommended treatment plans. (Pro tip: be careful when leaning your trekking poles against the trees;  I think doing that against a woody poison ivy vine was my downfall here.) But my legs feel okay! 🙂⛰

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On to why I love the Smokies

My last summer in college I worked for the National Park Service here as a Student Conservation Association (SCA) volunteer and basically just hiked around the park collecting field samples for an entomologist. This is where I first really started hiking, it’s where I hiked my first section of the AT, and it’s where the idea of thru-hiking was born for me.

Walking through the Smokies these last few days, I’ve also seen the first signs of spring! Bees and butterflies and birds chirping and a bunny and a snake and blankets of tiny wildflowers (Sarah Low – what is this beautiful little thing?!)

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It’s also begun to smell like spring, especially at the stream crossings. The Smokies are just really beautiful and kinda haunting, and since pictures are worth a thousand words I’ll just leave you with some of the cool ones I’ve taken.

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If only spring meant solely sunny, warm days and not more rain (or snow)…. 😐☔️ We were already planning to zero on Thursday, and now the forecast is for 60 mph winds, snow, hail and a nighttime low of 22 degrees, so I’m really happy to be clean, fed and in a bed tonight and tomorrow. We won’t be able to escape the snow or cold the rest of the week, but oh well, as is said out here a bit too often: no pain, no rain (or snow), no Maine.

happy hiking and more to come…
-s

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Comments 2

  • emily sue : Apr 6th

    gurrrrl, keep it up! great post.

    Reply
  • Cindy : Apr 9th

    Great post. Love the pics and appreciate the way you describe the rigors of the trail. You mentioned hairy drop offs. I am am planning for the hike next year. The one thing I’m afraid of is drop offs. I can feel my heart racing just thinking of it. How bad are they?

    Reply

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