Weather Together is Better
Day 14 Brown Fork mile 152.9
Continuing where I left off from the last post… I woke early, stashed my pack, and hiked 3 miles back down to the NOC to get my tent poles. Then I hiked back to get my pack and continue on 14 miles to the shelter knowing the snowstorm was due to come sometime in the middle of the night. The last 3 miles up Jacob’s ladder, hill over hill required a deep dive into my energy reserves. I tried reverse psychology on myself whispering sweet compliments to the mountain versus my usual litany of cuss words.
Knowing most hikers were getting off trail I was not too worried about getting a spot in the shelter and was pleasantly surprised to find friends Swiss Miss and Hook there who had saved me trail magic treats and Bearclaw, who brought apples and cookies for everyone. We settled in after a beautiful sunset, waiting to see what this storm would bring.
Day 15 The Hike Inn out at Yellow Creek mile 158.3 Awoke in the middle of the night to loud, heavy rain that shifted to a colder, quieter snowfall. Morning arrived with the storm still blowing and the snow accumulation increasing but not alarming. Our hammock hiker, Popeye, survived fine but reported being rocked by the winds.
Fully equipped with my winter clothes, snow gaiters, and microspikes, I headed out for my short hike to the gap for my hostel pick-up. Everyone else would continue on another 7 miles to Fontana Dam. It was challenging but also exhilarating trail time.
A resupply box from home, clean body and clothes, trip to town for dinner, and a warm bed …what more could I ask for?
Day 16 Fontana Dam Lodge mile 164.4. What can I say but one of the easiest hike days ever in the beautiful snow-covered woods. I had planned on staying at the shelter as it is referred to as the Hilton with its bathroom and showers but the opportunity to split a Lodge room and have a warm bed versus freezing temperatures was too good of a proposal to pass on.
Summary of the Smoky Mountains
You have to stay at the shelters in the national park and I could write volumes about each day’s hike but here is the synopsis:
Mollies mile 177.7 …the trail family is coming together, also it is spring break for schools!
Derricks mile 189.8 … am I preferring shelter to tent sleeping or just too tired
Mt. Collins mile 202.8…highest point at Clingmans Dome! but rainy no view so happier to see the shelter. AT joke: how was your hike today? Had its ups and downs 😂
Peck’s mile 218.2…we are officially a group pacing the same miles and shared smiles. St. Patrick’s day at Newfound gap was surreal. Was hoping for trail magic beer and food only to find crowds of people on vacation. Quickly realized the trail magic was the friendships forming. Shared my nip of whiskey that night😊
Cosby knob mile 231.1…last night in the park, feeling giddy! The fierce windstorm before dipping into the shelter’s oasis of calm was like the Smokies were reminding us who is boss out on the trail…mother nature!
Leave the park, Standing Bear for short rest and resupply box, yippee for stealth camping again mile 244. Highlights include flash request granted to river rafters while crossing a bridge, supreme pizza coma, and finally having dry feet only to fall in the creek.
Last night before Hot Springs and visit with my sister, stealth camp with 2 trail family (tramily) mile 257. Felt a little off not being with the whole gang but know this is part of trail life. Hiker hunger has hit with a vengeance and “2 dinners” is the best thing ever!
Hot Springs mile 275, 3 nights in lap of luxury (spoiled by the best sister ever!) and first and second Zeros for me! On day 27, I will head back out on the trail tomorrow refreshed and renewed confidence. Most of all I am overwhelmed with gratitude for those supporting me off the trail and those on the trail.
- be ready and able to take care of yourself but it’s ok to accept help or gifts of kindness when offered, it all comes around
- Spring and winter are only a few hours and 10 degrees apart
- Trail humor is the best humor
- Puffy jacket dancing is a thing
- Snoring and mice are better than wet gear
- Smiling and singing does make the trail miles sweeter
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