First off, just want to say thanks for everyone for their support. A shout-out to my friends in Mrs. Tuluca’s class, Brian Kennedy for setting this site up, my family for their wonderful comments, and a shout out to the Bradley Family I met on Wayah Bald. All of you are awesome.
The GPS isn’t operating as best as it could. The cold weather is causing the battery to die out pretty fast. I’ll have it back up soon. The last few days in the Smokies has been great but I’m beat. However, as difficult the terrain is, there is no disappointment. The views and the change in terrain have been awesome. There are a lot of ups and down causing the miles to seem longer and the weather has been unpredictable. The night before the Clingmans Dome approach i pushed an extra 1.7 miles to the shelter just before. I’m glad I did. The views were remarkable. Just awesome. A precursor for what was to come. Unfortunately, when I got there the shelter was full and had to sleep outside in my tent. I love being in my tent but being in the colder weather doesn’t do me well. That night was a small thunder/snow storm which kept me awake.
The next day was a 3.5 mile hike to Clingmans Dome- the highest point of the AT. I got a late start with trying to sleep a bit but eventually got on my feet. I got to the Dome and felt pretty good. Cold but good. It was very windy and on/off flurrying but the views are something to see for oneself. I’d hoped to get there one day but to hike 199 miles there is an accomplished feeling. Afterwards, I walked to the visitor center to sneak out some postcards and grab a few snacks:) One thing I enjoyed about this part of the Smokies was the terrain change to evergreens. I enjoy the smell of the pines and hemlocks. The woods thickened as I got further and more snow stuck to the ground. It became muddy in some areas causing me to lose my balance more than a couple of times but these miles seemed so long.
When I got to Newfound Gap, I didn’t feel well. Weak, my body hurt and my head wasn’t in the right place at all. The time was 5:00pm and I could either push on 3 miles and 1000 ft ascent to the next shelter or try to get some rest in nearest town of Gatlinburg. Mis-Match and Johnny B were already there as they were in the shelter the night before and not bothered as much by the storm. Luckily for service I texted them and of course the shelter was full with spring breaker section hikers. Knowing another cold rain/snowy night was ahead with 50 mph gusts, I just couldn’t do it. I called for the shuttle into town.
Luckily, the shuttle came pretty fast into Newfound Gap and I was soon in a Motel 6. I got in and rinsed off my muddy clothes to dry while I showered. Those are my only clothes and course I couldn’t go into town with dirt and mud all over me from the day. After a nice warm shower I walked into town and upon leaving ran into some fellow hikers from Australia. We walked around Gatlinburg for a bit and found a pizza restaurant to try out that was recommended to them. It was nice to have full warm meal and a drink with others. The camaraderie on trail is one of my favorite things. Having a conversation with others about things I do not know goes a long way. The biggest trial on trail in the mental state. As they say You Are Your Own Worst Enemy and I believe it. I’ll talk more about that in another post. After dinner I walked back to the hotel and went directly to sleep.
This morning I got up early and packed my bag. At 3:20am the hotel’s garbage truck came and emptied the dumpsters on site and couldn’t really get back to sleep. My back and body was sore but good enough to hike. I walked into town and instead of waiting for the 10:30am shuttle to the trail and tried my luck with hitch hiking at 9. I started walking to the trail 15 miles away in hopes someone would pick me up. Within a mile in, a trail angel slowed and pulled to the side. She ended up really being my trail angel. Kathy(Red Cap)drove me back up to the trail gap and from the lower elevations looking up, you could instantly see what happened overnight and it worried me. All the slush froze over and more snow fell. Things did not look well. More on the way up, we saw abandoned motorcycles with a few inches of snow on them, more worry. When we reached the trail gap, it was worse. The plow marks were in the road and salt was on the pavement. Before Red Cap let me in she said, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’. I said ‘Yes!’ Because I felt good and was just excited that someone even stopped to pick me up. I should’ve said No. The trail looked just awful and dangerous. Icy and snowed over- something I’m not prepared for. In conversation going to the trail we chatted and I found that she is a former thru-hiker and she learned I was going to see family in the area after the smokies. She mentioned how dangerous it would be with a 1000 ft ascent over the next 2 miles and I took it in. I changed my mind and she offered to drive me to a town near my sister as she was on the way to meet someone else. I took the offer and came to Townsend. I couldn’t thank Red Cap enough for her help. I offered a few dollars for gas but she wouldn’t take it so I just left it in the coffee cup. I gave her a massive hug before exiting the car and getting to the Townsend visitor center.
I’m not going to say ‘unfortunately’ here but I had to re-route. Things happen and the weather got in the way but in the end I get to see my family sooner and I’ll have to wait a few days until the weather clears. It is what it is. I’ll keep you posted