From Springer Mountain Georgia to Mt. Katahdin Maine

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter

Howdy howdy, Daystar here in Gatlinburg with a recap since my last post.
Shuttles buses
at the NOC
Ha! Gatlinburg is quite a place, so glad I came but very ready to get back on the trail. Let's see, when I left off on the last update, I was headed into the NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center, a week ago. We stayed the night before at the A. Rufus Morgan Shelter, which cracked me up by how proper it sounded. We spoke with British accents and cracked each other up by asking goofy things like: Where are the butlers?

Friday morning we hiked down to the NOC and I finally felt like I was really in the NC I love - green, lush, damp and beautiful. We had a great breakfast and looked into laundry and showers - best things ever!! It was so funny, everyone there was also doing laundry, so all you saw were people walking around in rain gear since everything else was washing (we only have 2 outfits - hiking and sleeping, both get stinky). By the time we finished up it was 3ish. We decided to stay the night at the hostel rather than attempting to hike seven steep miles in the approaching storm. We bought beers and had a jolly, cheerful time. I felt like a cool rock star staying up really late, only to realize that when I went to bed the clock said 9:30... aka hiker midnight (since bedtime is usually around 8 pm when the sun sets).

Saturday morning we headed up and out. Nothing like hiking seven miles straight uphill with a slight hangover haha but we made it to Locust Cove Gap to camp and it was great to be back in the woods.
Sunday morning we got up and hiked down to Stecoah Gap and found some great April Fool's Day trail magic - oatmeal creme pies & coca colas! We hiked the one tough climb of the day - Jacob's Ladder and then on to a campsite for the night.  

Stecoah Gap

Monday morning we hiked down into Fontana Dam (the highest dam in the eastern United States). Gribley started the day off with a bad joke by asking: What did the hikers say after hiking miles down into Fontana? DAM! Haha, so pretty much all day we found an excuse to yell "DAM."
View from top of Fontana Dam
Daystar at Fontana Dam

 We resupplied at an overpriced general store and took a dip in the lake (below).

We filled out our permits for the Smokies and got going.
Pants on Fire, Gribley, and Daystar
Pants on Fire on Fontana Dam
It was crazy to be walking along a real road as part of the AT but we had to physically cross Fontana Dam to get to the Smokies' entrance. 

Those first few miles were TOUGH, and I declared, "The Smokies ain't no jokeys, y'all!" We'd hoped to make it to Mollies Ridge Shelter for the night but were pretty beat and camped at Birch Creek Campsite - the only campsite in the Smokies. Normally hikers are required to stay in the shelters. The site was huge but they had small designated camping spots. We didn't want to be greedy taking up three spots, so Gribley, Pants on Fire, and I put our three tents up in a small space about half the size of a parking spot.
 Ha! it was like a sleepover later in the night because we could just talk through our tents as we were falling asleep.

We got up the next morning (Tuesday) and hiked over to Mollies Ridge for lunch and then onto Russell Field Shelter.
Russell Shelter

 We'd talked about going on to Eagle Creek to the Spence Field Shelter but we saw huge dark, ominous clouds and decided to stay. The heavens broke (video on my facebook page) but it was a really fun night. We shared the shelter with lots of other fun thru-hikers and also a group of Boy Scouts training for Philmont. They were so excited to hear about our hike and shared lots of great food with us. Another group of guys had these teeny tiny Delta playing cards and they taught me a mid-western card game that sounds like "yuko" but it spelled something crazy.

We got up (Wednesday) and decided to do a bigger day - almost 15 miles to the next shelter, Silers Bald. In the morning we hiked up THE Rocky Top!
Topping Rocky Top

 And yes, I was singing, "Good ole Rocky Top, Rocky Top Tennessee" all day. It rained pretty hard again that evening, and I was glad to be in a shelter with a real roof over my head.

The next day (Thursday) we got up and hiked up to Clingman's Dome - the highest point on the entire AT.
Clingman's Dome Observation Tower

Ramp to the Tower

Daystar at Clingman's Dome


The crazy thing though is that a road goes to the top so there were a million tourists, and we were the oddballs out - all stinky with our huge packs. There's a crazy 60's style observation tower that you can walk up, which was kind of pointless since we were totally in a cloud. We had some pretty awesome trail magic - there were about 7 of us sitting down below and a couple saw us and asked, "Do y'all want a beer & some beef jerky?" and we were like YES!! Ha! so we split one beer among all of us and inhaled the jerky. They offered us to come by and tailgate with them. They passed out beers and we had one then, and took one to go. It started to rain, and we concluded being on the tip-top highest point is probably not the best place to be in a storm so we took off for the next shelter. Luckily the rain let up while we hiked, but started back when we got to Mt. Collins Shelter. At 5900 feet it was pretty chilly, and we put our beers out in the rain to cool them.

Friday morning, we hiked down 5 miles to Newfound Gap where we met some trail angels. Mom took us to lunch and got us hooked up at the Grand Prix motel and took off back to Chattanooga. We took showers and divided our clothes into 2 loads - super stinky and medium stinky. For instance, our sox are SUPER stinky and didn't want them to stink up our sleep clothes, which aren't as bad. We got some beers and had a really fun time on the balcony at the motel with all the other hikers staying there. We met up with another group of three guys who spent time in the Peace Corps in Peru. We've been camping with them the past few nights and they are a lot of fun. We all went down to Mellow Mushroom and had pitchers of Sweetwater 420 and 2 large Cosmic Karmas - pretty much my two favorite things at Mellow Mushroom. Afterwards we walked around Gatlinburg which is quite a crazy experience - it's like Myrtle Beach meets Vegas meets Disneyworld but in the mountains.. haha so bizarre! We got Pete's pink hat that he found on the trail airbrushed with "FRESH" - a word those boys always use to describe things (jokingly). We then went to a local brewery where there was an Elvis impersonator singing 80's hits and had a bit too much fun. The "encore" was "When I come around" by Greenday. Ha Ha the total randomness of the evening delighted me to no end.

Yesterday (Saturday) we got up and did "full pack explosion" - took everything out of the packs, dried it off, decided if things were necessary or not - an overall pack re-organization.

Pack explosion

Hiker's sink

We headed down to Food City to re-supply. I'm still getting the hang of the food thing, but I'm glad for my purchases. Breakfast is usually oatmeal & tea. Lunch is bagels with peanut butter or cheese. Dinner is Ramen with a tuna packet stirred in or a scoop of peanut butter (like Thai food!). Snacks this go are goldfish & granola with peanut M&M's.
Food for this week

                                                         Anyway, I also got a silk sarong to have something to wear in town. The boys I'm with grew up in the Catholic church and I joined them at a local church for the Saturday night Easter Vigil. It was so adorable - a small parish about the same size as the small Episcopal church I grew up going to. It was fumbly and quirky and nothing was quite perfect and I loved every second - I love the small town personality of things like that. When we were outside lighting the fire to light the Pascal candle, a truck was parked across the street blasting bluegrass music and I was thinking, yep - this is about right. After the service we had burgers & beer and headed to bed. Lots of tired hikers ready to get back to our reality.

Got up this morning (Easter Sunday) to get packed up and write this post. There's a couple of "trail angels" that offer shuttles back to the trail and they arrive soon so I need to get a move on it. Thanks for reading! If anyone has any questions they want me to address, just leave a comment! I don't have great service on the trail, but I'll try to send an update from Hot Springs, NC in a few days.

Happy Easter! Daystar

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