Here Comes the Sun (and snow, and rain, and ice, oh my!)
Another week in the books! The smokies came and went, and they did not disappoint with both the views, and the horrendous weather.
Day 14 – February 27
I got up at 6:30, mentally prepared for the 7 mile uphill battle that is the climb out of the NOC. I said goodbye to the hostel I staid in (by myself, since no other girls arrived), and to the nice little hole mice had chewed in the floorboards. I could hear them crawling above my head in the ceiling all night.
I also happened to meet a guy who I’d happened across about a month ago when I went on my shakedown hike- small world! I additionally met a girl named Spice Girl, which is significant only because I have seen so few girls so far.
After getting to the first shelter around mile 7, I started listening to music. It had started raining and I was feeling a little down. Of course, it only rained for about 2 hours- just long enough for me to work up a good sweat inside my rain gear.
The terrain was okay until the last mile before the shelter, where the trail ran straight up the side of a random mountain. Judging from the pink tape on the trees around said mountain, I think they’re planning on rerouting the trail there. Thank god.
I got to the shelter around 4:30 at the end of the 15.8 mile day, and decided to spend the night in the shelter for the first time since I knew it was supposed to rain that night. There were 5 other people there with me – all very nice (Joe, Spice Girl, Norseman, Nameless, Butter Foot). I enjoyed hearing all their stories and bantering for a little while.
Day 15 – February 28
Thankfully, there were no problems with mice in the night. Today was much gentler than the day before. Only 12.8 miles, mostly downhill, into Fontana dam. It did start pouring about 30 minutes before I got to the shelter (the Fontana Hilton), but I was there by 1:30 so it wasn’t a big deal.
There were some more good views today, and I also discovered my new favorite snack- a tortilla smothered in Nutella and then rolled up. I’m calling it the “crêpe américain”.
The Fontana dam shelter was awesome. It had running hot water for showers, toilets, trash cans, and a solar charging station (which I unfortunately could not get to work).
Everyone I stayed at the shelter with last night went into town to stay at a hostel tonight, so I’m only sharing the shelter with one other guy – I didn’t catch his name, but he’s taking the trail slowly, going about 5 miles a day. He even watched a movie on Netflix that night!
Day 16 – February 28
Today was a long day. I was woken up at 11:30 at night by footsteps in the shelter – to be honest, I was afraid it was a bear. In fact, it was just chocolate rain – a hiker who’d had a hard time hitchhiking back onto the trail.
I got up at 5:30 so I would have plenty have time for the 17.3 mile climb out of Fontana dam. I think I probably annoyed the other two in the shelter, but I did get to see a beautiful sunrise.
It started raining at 10:30, but on and off so it wasn’t too bad. The uphill climb (first five miles) was pretty hard. Unfortunately it didn’t really go downhill after that, it just got slightly less steep uphill.
I also saw my first deer on the trail – finally! Of course, there were also some awesome views, despite the Clouds.
In the smokies you’re required to stay in the shelters – they’re much bigger than the other shelters, they all have bear cables, and they also have tarps strung across the open side because of the weather.
I got to the shelter just in time- it started pouring 10 minutes after I got there. I was joined by Joe, Regis (not sure how to spell that) and two other hikers. We were all very greatful to be in the shelter that night, as it off and on torrentially poured and snowed all night, in combination with thunder, lightening, and howling winds (although the roof did leak a good deal).
Day 17 – March 2
It was pretty cold last night- it got down to low 20s, and it rained and snowed on and off all night. Everything was white when I got up to start hiking, still in the mid 20s.
30 minutes in and all my water was frozen. It kept on and off snowing with some very high winds. I was walking very slowly- only 2 miles per hour, maybe slower. I stopped for lunch around 11 at the first shelter about 6 miles in, and it seems like everyone else was moving just as slowly.
I inhaled about 1500 calories and started listening to a podcast, and the rest of the day went much better.
I also accidentally made about 8 servings worth of instant mashed potatoes. I ate as much as I could, but had to give up about 3/4 of the way through. And I don’t want to eat any more instant mashed potatoes for the foreseeable future. Thankfully no vomiting ensued. About 15 miles today.
Day 18- March 3
Cold. It was so cold last night. I was in my 0 degree bag with a silk liner and had a down jacket on, and the cold still managed to creep it- I don’t know how Joe and Regis managed it in their 20 degree bags. But it probably didn’t help that I had to leave my sleeping bag cocoon twice in the night to go pee.
I slept with my water and electronics this time so they didn’t freeze, and started hiking early with the temperature in the low 20s. It was a 3 mile climb up to Clingman’s dome in the clouds, and by mile 1.5 my water was frozen again. It was snowing, the wind was blowing very hard, my hands were frozen, the trail was an ice rink, and my phone died as well from the cold. So I wasn’t in the best spirits.
I made it up to Clingman’s dome, although unfortunately there was no view. It’s the highest point on the AT!
The sun made its appearance around 11:30, and I was able to unfreeze my water while having lunch with Joe and Regis and was in much better spirits after that.
She drove me to her house and was kind enough to provide me with a warm shower, laundry, and a homemade dinner! It was awesome, especially since that was the coldest night yet. I also got to meet her dog Argus.
– Tick Tock
(Sorry this update is a little late- I’ve been having phone issues and haven’t been able to get service until recently, so I am now past the smokies)
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