Smokies? Check.

9 Jun

It has been a long, wet week for Lucky and I in Great Smoky Mountain National Park (GSMNP/Smokies). We had been anticipating this 72-mile section of trail for many states as Northbounders had recounted their tales of difficulties in the Smokies. Cold temperatures, snow, endless wet days, and lots of climbing combined with the park’s “No Dog” policy made us dread what was coming. So after dropping Georgy off with Lida from Loving Care Kennels (who picked him up at the trail side before entering the park), we headed up into GSMNP. We stayed the first night at Davenport Gap Shelter, which stood out as the only shelter in the park that is still caged. This is suppose to prevent bears from entering the shelter, but ends up just making us humans feels like we are on display in the zoo.

Day 2 we hiked 14.8 miles to Tri-Corner Knob Shelter, the most remote shelter in the park. We enjoyed our only day of sunshine of the week and made it to the full shelter before the evening rains began (which would continue every night the rest of the week). We made our current favorite dinner (Thai peanut pasta) and bedded down in the spacious shelter as our sheltermates kept the fire going in the shelter’s fireplace.

Day 3 was our shortest day of the week, 12.6 miles to the most popular shelter in the park- Icewater Spring Shelter. Being forced to walk shelter to shelter was one of the other frustrating rules of the park. Everyone has to stay at shelters each night and must have a permit for each specific shelter (luckily thru-hikers are exempt from the second part). Since we had a shorter day we decided to “grease the groove”, which involved doing push-ups and planks every hour on the hour to improve our fitness. Though it was tough, it really broke up the day! At Icewater we got to meet some great folks, including a couple of married nurses who gave great career advice. We also met some of the coolest kids ever! Amelia (10 years old), her brother Brody (8 years old) and their friend Porter (also 10 years old) were on a camping trip with their dad’s Jason and Adam. The 5 of them were hiking the 72 miles of the AT in the park and were doing the same mileage as us. These kids were doing 15 miles a day with few complaints and an awesome attitude. They were definitely the most hard-core (as well as the most fun and well-behaved) kids we have met on the trail!

Day 4 we knocked out 15.5 miles, crossing our first two big milestone of the smokies- climbing Clingman’s Dome (the highest point of the AT at 6,643 feet) and having less than 200 miles left! Both were exciting and we were also able to sneak into the shelter minutes before the evening’s deluge of rain began.

Day 5 was our longest day in the park, 17.5 miles to Mollie’s Ridge Shelter. We enjoyed our final lunch with the awesome kids and dads before climbing to the top of Rocky Top and a HUGE milestone- 2,000 miles completed! A photo shoot ensued, along with calls and texts home to share our accomplishment. As usual, the trail made sure we knew our place and rewarded us with an incredible lightening storm and 4 inches of rain in under an hour. Needless to stay we looked like wet rats when we entered the full shelter too late. Thankfully everyone welcomed us to set up our tent in the cooking area and we were able to have a dry night despite the endless rain.

Today was day 6, and we exited the park with glee. We finished the last 10 miles in under 4 hours, leap frogging with a group of Sierra Club members who had been very sweet to us, providing us with morning coffee and even hanging our bear bag in the rain! The kindness of strangers never fails to warm our hearts and every moment of trail magic means a lot to us. The final amazing moment of the week came when Lida returned my gorgeous boy to us- a happy Bear, groomed for the summer. Now all three of us can continue a Smoky-free adventure for the last 165 miles!

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2 Responses to “Smokies? Check.”

  1. Aemilia, aka Fiddler, aka 10 year old, aka your #1 fan June 9, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

    Thank you for including me on your blog and good luck on getting to Georgia!!
    PS, Brodie and Porter say hi.

  2. Yellowshirt June 10, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

    Great job getting through the Smokies. Enjoy your last few days on the trail!

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