Longing for Summer as Winter Hangs On
At Nature’s Inn Hostel and Cabins for a nero day as winter won’t let go. Last night at Hogback Ridge Shelter was interesting. I was sleeping in my tent and it was raining. Around four in the morning I heard a hoot owl calling. After a while, there was a response from farther off in the woods. Then the birds moved and the hooting changed to a guttural screeching. The birds moved again and came in real close. The noises they made hardly sounded bird-like. My guess is that they were mating and I just happened to be sleeping in their territory.
The Smokies were cloudy, windy, and cold. I had one day of sunshine out of five. Rocky Top was windswept with clouds sweeping across the balds. I did get a fantastic view of Lake Fontana from rickety Shuckstack tower early on. The shelters were crowded but well maintained. They were two-tiered with tarps across the open side. I unintentionally did my first 20-mile day. I missed my intended shelter (it was off the trail). I was a mile past when I asked a young southbounder if she recently passed a shelter. She was an exhausted teacher on break. Her name was Bright Eyes and she informed me that I had gone too far. I decided to race sunlight and go to the next shelter. Eventually I came to Newfound Gap and it was a parking lot full of tourists. I thought, so this is how the rest of the world is living. I headed straight to the bathroom and was treated to a wonderful commode. I headed up the mountain feeling energized. Eventually it started getting dark and for some reason I started thinking of bears. After about 15 minutes in the dark, I arrived. It was dark in the shelter and everyone was in their bags. Most people were still awake and I managed to squeeze into a spot on the bottom level. It was all I could do to set up my bed and brush my teeth. It was my first 20.
Zero in Hot Springs
The Smokey Mountain Diner in Hot Springs was a fantastic breakfast. I came down the mountain into town after hiking the three miles from the last shelter. It felt like spring, I heard a rooster crow, and then smelled skunk. I was anticipating a family visit and in high spirits. I hit the diner and had a double breakfast. Then I made it to the dilapidated laundromat. The only working dryer didn’t work. It took my money and rotated but didn’t heat. I put my wet clothes in a plastic bag and walked off to a local campground to visit with a couple I had met earlier. Later I met up with my wife and son. We ate and checked into our room. I hung a line to dry my clothes. The next day was a fantastic zero. We went to the hot springs and kicked around town in 70-degree weather. Parting the next day was difficult, since it had turned cold and rainy. Now I understand why people leave the trail.
Looks like we are in for around five more days of winter weather. I seem to have lost my tolerance for cold weather after the two warm days in Hot Springs. Summer can’t come soon enough
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