Whew…five days in the Smokies. We decided to hit a hostel just outside the park today instead of staying at a campsite. Although, we are still camping anyway—we got here too late. But a shower is nice and we ran into a lot of people we’d been hiking with earlier last week.
First, thank you for all your comments and thank you to my old work colleagues who have commented! I appreciate it and I hope you are all having fun with the upcoming Everglades Study! 😉
What can I say about the Smokies??? They weren’t as bad as I thought but there was a lot more snow than was told to us.
Day1: We left Fontana Dam to hike 15 miles to Russell Field Shelter. Not too bad getting out of the Dam area, we hiked up to Shuckstack and then down for lunch and met a few other hikers on the way. It was a ‘usual’ day, ups and downs, some nice flats. A lot of the trails in the Smokies are graded for horse use so the AT is used for horses in the Smokies on most parts except a few top spots. We stayed at the Russell Field Shelter for our first night in a shelter. There was one other couple who had hiked up from a different trail for an overnighter and then four people who came in late and left early. You have to stay inside a shelter in the Smokies unless it is full and then you can tent. It’s ridiculous. I only saw one mouse the next morning and it ran across the side of the shelter.
Day 2: Oh, this day was kinda crappy. It was effing hot and I was guzzling water and there were so many pointless ups and downs. The group of hikers was one shelter in front of us so we didn’t really see many people that day. Rocky Top and oh, another one right after, were two steep climbs, both with great views, though. We made it into Derrick’s Knob Shelter for a late afternoon rinse in the stream and to see a few hikers we knew. Everyone was staying there but we were hoofing another six miles to Silers Bald. We showed up at SIlers Bald shelter to an empty shelter and we had it to ourselves the entire night!
Day 3: Clingman’s Dome was looming that morning. Every ridgerunner we had run into (they are kinda trail maintainers and helpers on the AT) had said there was 1′ or more of snow on the trail and some post-holing on the back of the dome. Which was true. Only they left stuff out. We left Double Spring shelter and the terrain changed and there were more fir trees. Smelled wonderful. The climb up Clingman’s wasn’t too bad, we deferred going to the top of the tower and instead headed down. It was tough going and we post-holed and tried to stay dry, ended up wet and like dummies we didn’t wear our gaiters and rain pants. We thought we were going to Mt. Collins Shelter for lunch but learned it was .5 off the trail so that was a no-go and oh, though we had a brief time of no snow on the trail, it was pretty much six miles of snow or ice on the trail all the way down to Indian Gap. Chris ended up hurting his ankle/heel so we went even slower but near Indian Gap we ran into two trail maintainers, Miss Scarlett and Newt who hiked the trail last year. They gave us root beers, cookie dough and apples. Mmmmm! Then, it was finally to Newfound Gap where US 441 runs though. We thought we’d get water at the bathrooms there but the NPS seems to think running water at a vital point for hikers is bad idea. Ok, so maybe they don’t think that, but they don’t have sinks in the bathroom, apparently alcohol hand sanitizer is the cool thing these days. We thought we were home free of snow until we had the last 3 miles to Icewater Spring Shelter and ran into day hikers who said there was snow all the way to Icewater and then past. Ugh. We rolled into camp after 7pm that night.
Day 4: Starting off much better and went to Charlie’s Bunion. Very cool scenic overlook. Actually, this day was pretty cool. Very good trail, some snow, most on Mt. Sequoyah and Mt. Chapman, but it was a very nice hike. We had lunch somewhere near Bradley’s View and saw two peregrine falcons swooping and diving into the valley below. Very, very awesome. Ended the day at Tri-corner Knob shelter.
Day 5 (today): After some up over Mt. Guyot this morning and snow we started hitting some ‘hiking nirvana’ which is what a section hiker coming from that direction called it. And it was. We ripped through the trail…flat/downhill with not a lot of rocks or debris. Had lunch at Cosby Knob Shelter and then had some more ups after lunch and then finally a long downhill into Davenport Gap. We walked along a nice creek/stream that I debated camping at, but earlier in the day we’d decided we might try to make it an 18 mile day and come to the Standing Bear Farm hostel. Oh, those last three miles were hard. Really, it was the last mile because it was blazing hot once we came out of the Smokies, that at one point we were on a ridge that I told Chris I felt like I was in the scrub somewhere in Florida. Yeah, the last mile after we passed I-40 was brutal because it was hot and up—steep up—and finally we came to the road to walk up to the hostel. Which we found out was out of bunks but we could tent. Oh well, we had a pizza and soda’s and talked to people we hadn’t seen in a week.
I’ve got a few blisters from the wet boots the other day so we’ll take it easy on the next three days to Hot Springs where we have reservations at a bed and breakfast with a jacuzzi. mmmmmm, my muscles need that!
So, the Smokies—the first half—kinda ‘meh’ because it was so similar to everything else, the second half, especially north of Newfound Gap—beautiful and awesome.
Oh, there is a scale here…it says I’ve lost 15 lbs already. I don’t know how accurate that, but I would definitely say 10.