Day 22- This is the day I got to the top of Clingman’s Dome. I have officially gone over 200 miles! I thought it was going to be a very hard straight up walk but it was actually one of my nicer uphill climbs. When I left Double Spring Gap Shelter, it was lightly raining and I had to put on my damp pants over my leggings, which I pulled back out last night to sleep in (also wrapped in my Pike Trail tarp for added warmth, thanks Ben). On top was my rain gear and I thought I would be too hot going uphill but it was just right. I entered another enchanted forest of another kind this time for the entire trek up the mountain. It was dark, misty, and low growing coverage that seemed to swallow you up. Again, I was in no hurry to get through. Anything laying on the forest floor was covered in a thick green moss, contrasting against the the brown, muddy trail and the green of the sweet smelling balsam trees. The memories of Christmas followed me throughout the day. When I got to the top the sun peeked through for a moment and beams of sunshine poured through the thick foliage. A sight to behold! The balsam trees are here due to the elevation and I will see them again in Vermont.
Saucy caught up with me before the next shelter and we decided to go into Gatlinburg tomorrow, shower, wash clothes, resupply, and eat a lot. That will be a good day. I met three new guys today at the shelter, Roy, Brian, and Troy. They are buddies from Augusta, GA. A very interesting group out for a section hike. I really enjoyed our conversations. Brian is originally from Walhalla and when I called it Hogwaller he knew I was legit. Troy had stents put in a couple weeks ago and is doing great to be out here! He showed me his 38 ultralight, now I want one, very light. Two old geezers showed up, one out of breath, one with a busted knee. I don’t know how he walks on it. The shelter is starting to fill so I am going to eat the last of my supper, hang my bear bag and climb into my sleeping bag to stay warm watching the interesting people. Good Night and Sweet Dreams!
Day 21- There were several hikers up and at ‘em before daylight to get to Clingman’s Dome and the the shelter beyond it. That is way more ambitious than my plans, thank you very much. As I said yesterday that is the highest point on the AT at 6658 foot elevation. So although I stopped short at this shelter earlier in the day, I feel I will need the rest for tomorrow. It was a little harder hike today with the constant rain and very mucky trail. When you get to the top of the ridges the wind was blowing so hard it about knocked me off my feet. I was glad to stop at this shelter for the night.
There are many hikers that I have run across before here at the shelter. They are so muddy and wet from their walk. There is Turnip, who like me needs to resupply quickly, she is from Atlanta. I am getting more ideas on what foods to buy for calories. There are also two red headed brothers here, Wrong Way and Mark. And yes he did go the wrong way once, thus his name. They have been hopscotching me for a couple of days. The better water source here according to the guide is in NC so I chose that one. The one down the other embankment in Tennessee was not very free flowing. Like I said we have been flip flopping the Tenn/NC border. We actually have a privy too! It sure beats digging a cat hole in the rain! The rain had pushed out several earthworms along the way and they are so long! You could fish for hours using these earthworms.
Right now we have a break in the rain and the sun is shining…for now. It is supposed to rain again tomorrow, maybe it will be on and off. Well a lady came by that is leaving the trail and asked if we wanted any leftover food. Boy was I excited! More Trail Magic! I have a tortilla soup now for supper, can’t wait! Oh the little things in life! We have a fire place in the shelter and I am hoping someone will light it off later. It would feel good to cut the chill. Well, the sound of the pitter-patter of the rain drops hitting on the tin roof tells me it’s time to slumber. Good Night and Sweet Dreams!
Day 19- I got up and out of Fontana early which is new for me. I think most people stayed around for another day (zero day). The AT goes right over the Fontana Dam then up the hill to enter the Smokies. You have to register to thru hike and you have 8 days to be through. I will be crisscrossing the Tennessee and North Carolina borders through it all.
I wound up at the Russell Field Shelter which is further than I expected to go but I just got a bad vibe from the people at the previous shelter. It’s not that they were dangerous, just not friendly. The AT guy was there doing repairs and he was super nice, he said this shelter was an “easy” 3 miles. Now we are still talking mountain miles here and I would really like to ask what is their definition of easy. When my shadow starts getting long and my belly starts to rumble I know it’s time to put down for the night. I did get here in good time, I think my adrenaline kicks in because for once I was actually Flying Tiger.
The people here are great. Another lady I had met once we entered the Smokies was here, her name is Tadpole. She’s a little older too but quick. Another kid, Brandon, works for Gulfstream and is going home tomorrow. I met a few here from around Detroit who were very nice, they are through hiking.
So earlier today I was coming around a switchback and stopped dead in my tracks. The forest floor as far as your eyes could see were covered in small white flowers. It was like being in a fairy tale. The sun was beaming down through the leaveless trees and made everything so bright. I found my gait slowed down and once in awhile a sweet aroma would fill the air. I felt as though I was in a Disney movie as I have never seen anything this beautiful. I came upon a tree with a hole through it and imagined this is where the seven dwarfs would be coming home to soon. It’s as if God was saying, slow down, take a look around, appreciate what you have. It was really quite emotional, I must say. This went on for about a mile and I was mesmerized.
Just around a corner just as it began, it abruptly ended. That is something I will never forget. It was definitely God’s handiwork! It is supposed to rain the next two days, let’s hope it goes good! I hear a screech owl now, which is cool, and a hoot owl. Everyone is in their bags so Good Night Sweet Prince and Princess and Sweet Dreams!