Something about he highpoint of the Appalachian trail made me want to slap Rockman in his face. I made the mistake of telling him before he left, giving him way too much time to run by the summit and away from my hand. By the time I finished my máte and got going he was running over Clingman’s presumably with tears of fear running down his face. Caboose, Snuggles, and I stayed at the paved summit for a bit. Its good to sit and let tourists ask you the same questions about hiking. This is one of those opportunities for us to be zoo animals to the nice folks spending their week going to Dollyworld and driving around the park. Unfortunately no one fed the animals despite high hopes of processed meats.
Trail magic feels like a rainbow on a cloudy day that renews your faith in people. Expecting it and being disappointed makes you mad at no one but the person who built expectations. No more expectations for trail magic.
After a few hours of sunning we kept hiking along the ridge. This is my least favorite section of the Smokies so far because we were within a few hundred feet of a road to our right the entire way, colloquially known as “handrailing” a road. Nothing like a Harley rolling by blaring loud pipes to degrade your time in the woods.
I hiked with and around Hustle and Flo, Chewy, Caboose, Snuggles and Kbar for most the day. They were all talking about going to town so I was trying to keep away from the temptation. I needed to skip this town to make myself feel like I had some grasp on financial responsibility.
Around 4 o’clock we trickled into Newfound Gap and waited for a bit. I tossed my trash and kept optimistic for a hotdog. My unfortunate belly remained empty despite people promising me we’d get magic in the Smokies. Trail magic feels like a rainbow on a cloudy day that renews your faith in people. Expecting it and being disappointed makes you mad at no one but the person who built expectations. No more expectations for trail magic.
Snuggles, Caboose, and I skipped the free ride to town and ran back into the woods. It was a big win, as I finally skipped a town and a list of delicious expenses. We climbed an hour uphill to Icewater Spring Shelter where Rock Kelly was. The shelter was packed with a large missionary group that seemed to dominate the space. Groups this large are illegal in the park but since they registered as individuals and enforcement is far, far away, they got away with it. I have no problems with large groups, but they seems to monopolize resources and spaces quickly. It wouldn’t have been as bad if a few of the middle aged women in the group didn’t spend the whole night complaining. It didn’t take long to change our plans the next day to hike away from the group. In the Smokies, you are required to camp at shelters so our options were 7.5mi, 13.7mi, or 20.8 miles. Everyone was planning on the 13 so we pushed it to the 20.
I had another delectable and excessively cheesy pasta dinner. Rockman’s lactose intolerance has really come in handy.
I had another delectable and excessively cheesy pasta dinner. Rockman’s lactose intolerance has really come in handy. He gave me a half dozen cheesy packs from some Annie’s mac and cheese boxes because he can’t digest them. At least when he tries, those around him, including his colon, suffer.
I drank my cheese water from dinner and went off to bed. They lady next to me was snoring before I got to my sleeping bag but I really didn’t mind. Snoring is involuntary and runs in my family so a particularly loud tone with sharp inflections like this lady trumpeted, reminded me of my father. I slept surprisingly well.
Rockman gave me a slap in the head at 6:45 to start off our first 20. “Pitching a 20 miler” takes extra effort and preparation so I got on trail at a record breaking 7:35am. Rockman got 30 minutes on me but I was happy chasing his pale behind. It started raining just after I got on trail but I was ready for it. The only shame was Charlie’s Bunion had no visibility and couldn’t be fully enjoyed. With poor weather and fast feet you miss some views I suppose, but luckily I thought ahead and hiked the section 2 years ago. It was clear as a cucumber that day and I soaked in ever bit of the sun on that bunion.
Luckily I thought ahead and hiked the section 2 years ago. It was clear as a cucumber that day and I soaked in ever bit of the sun on that bunion.
It rained on and off all day. So much so that the 2nd shelter 13.7 miles into the day was still packed with inhabitants. It was lightly drizzling as I walked up only to discover that the slightest drizzle amplifies to an awful blaring on the tin roof of the shelter. You can hear every drop exploding on the metal with the striking ringing of a bass drum. When the rain picked up the dry folks winced with pain at the though of stepping into it. They stood still and shivered dry when they could be moving, warm, and not uncomfortably moist with that rain-sweat dewey-ness that is common to hiking in the rain. Looking in the eyes of these souls you see only hydrophobia, reluctance, and pain. I couldn’t stay long for fear of my spirit being sucked into a black hole. I turned down an invitation to stand by the fire knowing the only flame that would warm my soul was on the trail and not masochistic procrastination. As soon as I felt a chill I hit the trail. It was gone 6 minutes after I started hiking.
I turned down an invitation to stand by the fire knowing the only flame that would warm my soul was on the trail
Turns out starting early means ending early. Even with the 20 miler in the Smokies, I got to the shelter at 330pm. Foolishly ingesting just 600 calories I made a proper dinner then supper. 2200 calories later I felt nearly full.
This would be the last packed shelter before running out of the Smokies and the shackles of well intended regulations. If you ever spend a few nights in this park remember your rain jacket and your ear plugs.