Week Three: Smoky Mountains

Day 15: 11.8

Woke up pretty early and rolled out of camp before the sun was completely up. Stopped for hot breakfast at Cable Gap Shelter with Kelly and Further. Coming into Fontana was a graceful fall down a large hill. When I got to the bottom, Lionheart and Falcon were in a shuttle and scooped me up so I could get to the lodge for my package. We had to wait for a while so Kelly and MF/Slim caught up to us. I got my package and my mom totally spoiled me with snacks. We all had dinner in the Fontana Restaurant. McFly was kind enough to let us do laundry and shower in his room. I was dubbed his trail mom. Went back to the Hilton Shelter and sorted my insane amount of food, hand warmers, and socks. Went to bed listening to Aquaman snore.

Day 16: 15.1

We entered the Smokies today! Woke up and left with Aquaman to go across Fontana Dam and climb up into the park. The initial climb was pretty easy. Schmutz, Falcon, Raven, and I checked out a sketchy fire tower. The park stayed true to its name and stayed super foggy all day. I fell on my sprain two miles from camp and had to lie on trail elevating my ankle for 15 minutes to help it cool down. We got to camp way too early at 2 p.m. and decided to not push on. There were charades, fire, food, and good company. That’s about all a thru-hiker can ask for. I can see myself getting used to the shelter life. Fell asleep listening to Aquaman snore.

Day 17: 16.4

I hiked for half of the day with Falcon and could keep up pretty well. Forgot to journal anything more.

Day 18: 13.6

We woke up at the crack of dawn this morning to hike out to Clingmans Dome for sunrise. Idea courtesy of Aquaman. Schmutz and I hiked together in the dark and the whole time I was planning what food I would eat at the top. There was frost everywhere, which made the ground glittery. We got to the tower not long after Aquaman did but still way too early. Recap arrived, then Falcon, and a couple of other people joined us at the top. We were huddled under a quilt for most of the morning. Sunrise was incredible and well worth the wait. Took our 200-mile mark picture at the bottom of the tower. Newfound Gap was jarring due to the sheer mass of people. Rode into Gatlinburg and was uncomfortable the entire time I was there. On the plus side, I packed out some moonshine for that night on trail. Before we started up trail, I experienced some annoying sexism when people assumed I wasn’t thru-hiking but all my male friends were. We stayed at nearby shelter, which had great views of the sunset.

Day 19: 20.3

Made breakfast to a beautiful sunrise out front of our shelter and oh my goodness I hiked 20 miles today. I bit the bullet and bought Guthook before I started because I knew I’d be wanting some motivational countdown-type shenanigans for my longest day yet. There were some incredible views. First of the day was Charlie’s Bunion and the rest I don’t think had actual names. They’re on Guthook as a little photo stamp. Finished the day strong, getting to Cosby Knob Shelter. I was pretty proud that I didn’t get there last as I had originally expected to. Tonight was our last night in the Smokies. Schmutz, Aquaman, and I joked how we won’t be able to sleep without the other right next to us. It’s been the bonding experience of a lifetime.

Day 20: 10.4

It’s our last day in the Smokies and I’m sad but excited to move on. Schmutz and I hiked all morning together. We went off trail to visit the Mount Cammerer fire tower and it was well worth the extra blue blaze mileage. We deposited our permits into a box and thought that we were almost at Standing Bear. Alas, we SO were not. We crossed a highway and found Aquaman sitting at the bottom of some pretty daunting stairs. Hiked into Standing Bear to find it very similar to the Splash Mountain ride at Disney World. No one and everyone was in charge. This guy cooked up pulled pork sandwiches, beans, and a salad for lunch, I scarfed it down after adding as much lettuce, tomato, and onion as I could get my hands on. I was having a bit of a weird feeling about hiking on so I stayed behind to wait for McFly to arrive. We camped downstream of Standing Bear.

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