Week 3 on the AT!

Hello Friends! We’ve gotten to the point where we no longer feel like newbies. The Great Smoky Mountains kicked our butts and we have a developed a pretty good rhythm to our days.

Enjoy the journal entries, A Day in the Life of a Thru-Hiker and pictures at the bottom.

Day 14

10 mile hike to the Fontana Hilton today! This is a large shelter prior to entering the Smoky Mountains with access to flush toilets, potable water, electrical outlets and even a hot shower. Pretty fancy!

We are experiencing our first shelter stay so hoping for the best. There is no Bear box or cables so everyone has to sleep with their food. Someone brought a lovely box filled with goodies and it is currently in the middle of the shelter floor as a peace offering to the mice.

Took a shower and air dried in the sunshine (with some clothes on of course).

Hung out at the Fontana Lodge and found the resupply box we sent ourselves to be quite appropriate. Great work past Paul and Laura!

We were treated to dinner by a section hiker friend and his wife who had come to pick him up. After a lovely time together they drove us back to the Hilton to check things out.

On our way down to the Hilton we came upon some really nice trail magic from Stray who will complete his triple crown this year with the CDT.

Day 15

We entered the Great Smoky Mountains! This has been something we have really been looking forward to.

A beautiful red salamander greeted us on the trail. Paul took its portrait.

The temps have been in the low 50s with a cool breeze, and that is sort of refreshing after a series of hot days.

We both have heavy packs with enough food for 5 nights. My swollen foot makes it seem like less time and more daily miles isn’t likely.

We visited with Flinstone over our snack at Mollies Ridge Shelter. It was nice to set up early and relax.

Last night’s stay at the shelter was quite cozy and actually very warm with 28 people snuggled up. There was a breezeway that was quite nice and I was very relieved when the rain came through.

Day 16

Sunday, April 23. The Smokies kicked our butts today. Lots of ascent and descent.

Daytime temps in the mid 50s with a periodic breeze made it difficult to maintain a comfortable body temperature. We kept having to lose layers uphill and return them on downhills or during breaks.

My foot felt workable today after a good nights rest. The cooler temperatures have also helped with the swelling.

We made it up Rocky top and landed at Derrick knob shelter after completing 12.1 miles.

Lots of beautiful gnarly trees that we believe to be some sort of birch. I took the portrait.

Day 17

Clingman’s Dome day!

We were so excited to wake up and hike to Clingmans Dome today. Despite the cold and windy morning, we hiked in all of our clothing, until we warmed up. The sun was out, which made it nice and helped us feel more energized. We only stopped at two water sources today so that we could make good time.

Once we got over 6000 feet, the trees changed to spruces, firs and pines. We started to smell cotton candy. Flinstone told us that that is from the Jeffrey Pine, which smells like vanilla.

We made it to the top very top of Clingmans Dome. We are so excited to be able to look around and see mountains we have traveled across and even Mount Leconte, which we explored back in 2019.

We walked the .5 mile concrete path down to the little gift shop to buy a sticker and a small snack. Because we were sitting there looking like hobos people asked us about what we were doing, and they were impressed that we were hiking the Appalachian Trail.

A short walk left to camp and a really chilly evening. Now we are snuggled up in our tent with all of our clothes including rain gear on knowing that it’s going to be another cold one.

Day 18

What a big day in the Great Smoky Mountains! We ended up hiking 20.5 miles. The trail leg fairy must have brought our trail legs last night! But she neglected to bring us matching feet so our feet hurt pretty bad at the end of that big day, but we did it.

The terrain was beautiful, and we got many many views.

At Newfound Gap we got awesome trail magic! A Baptist church provided bananas oranges lots of candy and chips and snack, mixes and beverages. Then the mother of a fellow hiker brought Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and breakfast sandwiches and they were a nice addition.

Later on at a shelter we found a guided day hiking group that was having lunch and we’re invited to take any food that we wanted from their picnic.

On the trail, we met Pickles, who is not only a Trail maintainer, but also a Trail builder. Yes, send for five years he hand carved steps into the rocks on just 1 1/2 miles of trail with a hammer and a chisel.

So we were well nourished today.

When we finally made it to tri corner shelter, there were already so many people here probably 30 people in the shelter and tents around and very unlevel ground. We caught up to a hiker bubble that had begun in late March.

So we found a place to camp and it is slanted, but that’s OK because we are quite tired and I think will be all right.

Day 19

We’ve emerged from the Smokies! What an adventure it has been in the terrain and elevation were challenging, and it had been quite cold.

Our terrible campsite last night made it difficult to sleep, but we still managed a 16 1/2 mile day. Since it rained most of the day, we were glad to stay dry using all of our rain gear, including our umbrellas again umbrellas have been the best.

As we descended from the higher elevation, all of the leaves on the trees stood out to us in their bright spring green, and it was absolutely beautiful.

We were grateful to find a really lovely campsite right next to a stream and since it’s so much warmer we were able to wash up some which made us feel quite nice.

We got to see the last shelter of the A.T that also has a fence across the opening of it so kind of feels like you’re in a cage. Took a quick break there and then emerged from the Smokies and finally got to camp at a “stealth spot.”

Note: In the Smokies backpackers are required to camp in designated shelter areas to minimize impact on the environment.

This requirement dictates how many miles one would hike each day. In PA dispersed camping is allowed in State and National Forests. This is what we are used to. On the AT dispersed camping is referred to as stealth camping.

Day 20

Today was amazingly a lot. On the way to Standing Bear Hostel to pick up a resupply package I walked straight into a tree with my head at full speed. There has to be a delicate balance of looking down to place footing correctly and also paying attention to the surroundings.

The climbs were challenging today, and I had an emotional breakdown, In part because my head hurt but came back. Each day is an emotional roller coaster for me with no distractions I enjoy in regular life.

It rained persistently throughout the day, but mostly a light rain that we were able to just utilize our rain gear for without too much umbrella usage.

Then we went to Max patch. We walked through a white out cloud with wind so fast that the rain felt like ice hitting our faces.

We landed at lemon gap and found a really great little spot. We enjoy this type of stealth camping better than camping at shelter areas.

Each day seems like multiple days put into one.

By the way, we did 20.5 miles today!

If we can do 20 miles in the Smokies and 20 miles in the rain, we can make it to Maine!

We saw a ginormous, maybe a pine or spruce tree just the stump the rest of the fallen over, but it was larger than almost atria think I’ve ever seen.

Day, in the life of a thru-hiker

There are many ways to approach a thru-hike and we have our own style that will no doubt evolve as we go as well. This is just how things have been working out.

Wake up to alarm at 6 AM.

Release valve and sleeping pad to let air out and put everything back in your pack where it goes.

Put on clothing for the day if it is not the same clothing that you have slept in.

Go outside and have a pee.

Tear down tent.

Retrieve bear bag and put oats in Nalgene bottle with water to cold soak. Brush your teeth and rinse your face.

Be sure all items are accounted for and begin to hike.

After about an hour or hour and a half of hiking, stop and enjoy cold soaked oaks for breakfast.

Hike for about 30 minutes more until you get to your next water source of and have a break and a snack.

Hike for about 30 minutes more until you realize you have to poop. Run off trail with your trowel and tp. When you return have your friend assist you in hand washing.

Hike for a couple more hours, stopping periodically to pee and remove layers or put layers back on as you attempt to regulate your body temperature.

Stop for lunch. Preferably at a beautiful scenic location. Be sure to stretch and maybe practice your tai chi.

Hike for about 30 minutes more until you get your next water source and I have a break and a snack.

Continue to hike for a few more hours until you have made it to the place that you plan to camp.

First things first, find where you want to put your tent and set it up. Be sure to notice how every seemingly flat spot turns out to be slanted.

Find a appropriate tree to hang your bare bag on. Hopefully you grabbed a rock on your path and stuck it in your pocket to throw your Bear line over the branch.

Eat your dinner then floss and brush your teeth.

Hang your beer, bag and toiletry bag appropriately.

Now it might be time to climb into your tent. Do your stretching and roll out your feet with a cork ball.

Explode the contents of your backpack throughout your tent, and place them where you would like them to go.

Now it’s time to assess your day and carefully plan the next day making note of the water sources and areas of interest. This is also a good time to consider when your next resupply will be and maybe start to get excited about reaching town in a few days.

One last pee and it’s time for bed at 7, 8 or 9pm at the absolute latest.

Goodnight Thru-Hiker! Tomorrow is a brand new day?

Scenic view from Fontana Hilton.
A friend welcome us into the Smokies!
This tree.
Beautiful cold morning.
View from Clingman’s Dome.
View from Charles’ Bunion.
We are doing it!
Peace out Smokies!

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Comments 6

  • Bob Dove : Apr 30th

    Thoroughly enjoying your posts. Will pass word on to the Oneness group tomorrow about your progress. Encouraging them to also follow you. Sending love and light to you both. Namaste.

    • Laura Budde : May 1st

      Thank you so much Bob! It is great to have you along with us! I feel the love and light?✨
      Much love to you as well!

  • Smitty : Apr 30th

    Impressive start, the daily regimen was interesting look forward to you posts as they pop up, wondering how many pullups Paul can do

    • Laura Budde : May 1st

      Thanks for your encouragement Smitty!
      At home he can do quite a few, but those pull-up trees on the AT have been hard to come by?

  • John Podoletz : May 3rd

    Laura and Paul. The updates are great. You are killing it. Be safe and have fun. John P.

    • Laura Budde : May 12th

      Thanks for the encouragement, John! We are really making the most of this experience.


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