Wow! It’s been awhile. I am sitting at the outfitter and hostel in Erwin, TN right now so I have been making great progress. It just seems like the places I stop for the night never have great reception.
Anyway here is my recap of the Smokies: Cold. Really cold.
I started up from the Fontana Dam in the afternoon on my first day. It was an uneentful and relatively easy climb with overcast weather. I opted to stay at the only campsite on the AT thru the park that nigt and had it all to myself. Very different from the rest of my experience in the Smokies.
The next day I ran into a ridge runner. They are employed. Y the maintaining clubs who maintain the trail. He warned me that rain and then a cold snap would be moving in so I decided to push for a 17 mile day to get thru a really rocky section of trail. The shelters through the Smokies are pretty much identical so they don’t really stand out from each other. Luckily the winter tarps were still up on most of them which would protect us from the coming cold.
I did an easy day the next day where I ended up scoring some free food from some section hikers as well as an early birthday shot of rum. Really good guys who spread the remainder of their food around because they were ending their hike early. That allowed me to get through the Smokies without having to go to Gatlinburg. That night the sleet started and the. Ext morning the trees looked like they had been frosted with wet powdered sugar. It was beautiful, but the clouds hung around so there were no views as I passed Clingman’s Dome; the highest point of the trail. The section of trail right after that was really beautiful. I felt like I was in a boreal forest somewhere in Canada.
At Newfound Gap, most hikers hitched a ride into Gatlinburg to escape the cold. Many of them had sent their cold weather gear home already against the advice of the outfitters along the trail a week or two earlier. I went another three mile and stayed at Ice Spring Shelter. According to one ranger, it got down to 0 that night. I was definitely cold outside my sleeping bag, but I slept toasty warm inside it. Funny enough; most people who hitched into town caught back up with me. The Ice and rocks on the last half of the trail in the Smokies was a little treacherous. Most of us planned big miles to get out of the park.
My last day in the park happened to be my birthday. I got my first decent views of the week at Mt. Cammerer on my last day. I then booked it to Standing Bear Hostel for a total of 19.5 miles. My birthday present to myself was a couple of beers and a Dijourno Pizza. It was the perfect end to a hard day of hiking. They had a computer so I got to thank a lot of people for their birthday wishes.
Will update everyone on how things have gone up until here in Erwin, TN in my next entry. Peace!