Day 24 – 4.14.15
Hiked 12.5mi (194.8-207.3)
Everything for the first half of the hike was just awful, everything was wet and muddy! For 3 miles the trail was literally a stream, water was just flowing down the trail the whole time. For my job, it was impossible to mark any possible water sources. I was only able to stay positive, because I knew this hike would end in a hotel in Gatlinburg. The weather was so bad we skipped Clingmans Dome! This is the highest point of the entire Appalachian Trail. I was told on a clear day you can see 7 different states from the top of the lookout tower. It was a bummer to skip it like that, but I know I’ll be back there on a glorious day to make it up. Once the rain stopped, the clouds started clearing and I finally started seeing the Smoky Mountains from what I remembered over 15 years ago. There is a ton of hemlock trees in the Smokies, but unfortunately most of them are dying and could eventually be off the grid. Apparently there is a beetle that has been killing them off and the process to stop it seems impossible so far. Hiking through the Smokies is quite an experience and I couldn’t compare it to anywhere else. I guess this is why the Smoky Mountains is the most visited forest in America. Everything is so green it almost looks fake sometimes. You’ll see species of trees, insects, flowers and stuff that you’ve never seen before.
Arriving to Newfound Gap, which was our area to hitch into Gatlinburg was a great moment, we were muddy and wet, all I could think about was being showered, wearing fresh, washed clothes. This gap had a big parking lot with tourist stuff everywhere and lookouts. We talked to one nice older man who loved the whole hiking thing and knew we had to be thru hikers. He mentioned to always write down and blog your experience, because now that he is older and never wrote things down, he can only say where he’s been, but can’t get into details. He wanted to drive us into town, but his van was slammed full. We ended up getting a ride not too much longer after with some retired folks from Minnesota and Texas. Arriving to Gatlinburg was just like from what I remembered years ago. It is one of the most unique, incomparable tourist cities ever, it has a Ripley’s Believe it or Not for crying out loud! What I love about the town is all the rivers that flow by all the hotels, you can leave your window or door open and you can sleep to that lovely river sound. Once checked in and showered up, we went to a pizza joint, which was 4 of us, but other thru hikers saw us as they were walking by and ended up having close to a dozen hikers hanging out. Everyone on trail mostly gets along with each other, but in normal society it would be a different story. It’s crazy how well everyone gets along on the trail, everyone is happy. One older hiker I met in Fontana Village said he met a hiker that he hated for the first few days and ended up getting his number and became friends. The trail names get spread well too, there was a few times some hikers ask, “Are you Fuego?” “Are you the guy working for Guthook?” This sometimes comes from people I haven’t even met yet, it’s crazy how the stories pass along the trail.
Day 25- 4.15.15
Zero Day in Gatlinburg, TN. Woke up hungry. The new normal haha. Those of you who knew me (Christy) pre-trail know I already eat a lot of food. We got word of an all you can eat breakfast buffet and ended up running into a bunch of other hikers at the restaurant (food news travels fast on the trail!). Afterward, we rested. Lounged around for a few hours in the hotel room, getting organized and figuring out what we needed to do in town. We got on the trolley to get to the grocery store. While waiting to transfer to a different line, we saw a Mexican restaurant and had a giant dinner at 4:30. Afterward, we made it to the grocery store. We were porch sitting at the hotel after we got back and started hanging out with another guy who was at the hotel named Kenny. He’s a truck driver and came to Gatlinburg to hang out for a few days. He invited us out to play pool and said he had $100 to spend on drinks for all of us. He was such a cool guy and this description isn’t doing him justice. Just a really great guy.
Day 26 – 4.16.15
Another zero day. Brother Ty’s doctor told him he shouldn’t hike, and with the rain, it didn’t take much for us to decide to stay. Cheap hotels means it doesn’t really kill the budget to stay. I’m the only one without a leg issue right now (knock on wood), so a rest day is always a good idea. We switched hotels because the one we were in didn’t have any vacancies, but only had to walk next door. Had lunch at Mellow Mushroom and walked along the parkway looking at stuff. Also went to a few moonshine tastings 🙂 We also went to a hot sauce store that had some samples. Jimi told me to try a sauce and I did so without reading the label. Some sauce that you needed to be 18 to try because it was so hot. It made my eyes water and I had to take off my jacket. It was HOT!! Hanging out at the room not spending money. Going to town had sometimes turned into ‘going to town’ and everything adds up quick at a tourist destination. Planning to take a [free] shuttle tomorrow morning back to Newfound Gap.
Day 27- 4.17.15
Hiked 10.4mi today (207.3-217.7). Woke up and decided to skip the shuttle this morning (definitely needed the sleep!). Had delicious lunch at the general store and hitched a ride with a couple from Kentucky who had tried to thru-hike in 2010, but got sidelined because of an injury. They took 5 of us 15 miles up back to the gap. Super nice! We started hiking uphill and I was pleasantly surprised. I guess 2 days off is the magic solution to not being sore on the first day back on the trail! And it was (finally!) not raining! We took a side trail to a rock outcropping called Charlie’s Bunion. We stayed long enough for the clouds to move a bit so we got to see the views. Hiked out with brother Ty with Fuego and Goodfoot a few minutes behind us. Had a great conversation with Brother Ty about what we’re trying to do when we get back from the trail.
Started raining at the shelter so we jumped in our tents. We all started cooking dinner and Goodfoot spilled his water all inside his tent! 2.5c of water all over his stuff. Definitely only cook outside or under the vestibule! Also of note, I have become desensitized to the word ‘moist.’
Day 28 – 4.18.15
217.7-230.6. Hiked 12.9 miles today. Woke up kind of wet (tent was super wet) and headed out. The weather was nice and the sun came out. Had lunch at a shelter and waited for Goodfoot, but he never came by. It was clear in most areas today, so it was nice to see all the views. In some areas, we were walking along the mountain ridge and could see pretty far in each direction. Stayed at the Cosby Knob shelter. The couple that was at the shelter last night arguing over where to put the tent is here too and arguing over where to put the tent again. Surprised they haven’t figured out that you need to pick your battles, and the 10 hours the tent will be there is not that big of a deal!
Goodfoot isn’t here still! Hope his knee is okay! Brother Ty decided today to take a vow of silence until we reach Hot Springs. Not sure I could handle that for 5 days!