Folks, we have walked 2,018.4 miles and have been out in the woods for 131 days so far. We have 162.6 miles and 10 days left. That all just seems unbelievable, doesn’t it?
We resupplied tonight in Fontana Dam, needing very little after opening all our mail magic!
Something else monumental happened. Fire Marshall loves McDonalds and when we met him, we told him we haven’t had it in at least 10 years. It was his goal to get us to eat at the golden arches at some point on the trail. Well, we finally succumbed to the evil! And it was so … good.
We are staying the night in Fontana Dam, which is the highest dam in the East at 480 feet. Well, we are not sleeping IN or ON the dam, just in town at a hostel …
Our friend Bobby/Bolt (from the Great American Family – GAF – in Danville) came out and joined us on the trail for a second time. He is extremely active and a big backpacker, so we convinced him (reluctantly) that he could keep up with our mileage. The 5-day itinerary for him was 1 mile, 15 miles, 20.5 miles, 19.8 miles and 17 miles. We knew he could keep up no problem and he did. He even smoked us a few times!! Let’s ignore the fact that he is now on long-term disability from work with a bum knee … But again, it was fun to have a 4th Musketeer around.
Anyways, the Smokies. Notorious for bad weather. Well, I think we lucked out. We had 1 day of cool temps, clouds & threat of rain, 1 day of pure sunshine, 1 day of rain/cold and 1 day of semi-sun. It did rain hard every night! Mornings have been cool to start, so we are always playing the layer-up, layer-down game with clothing!
It was crowded in the park, even for midweek. I guess it was mostly because of the beautiful fall colors. We saw more people this week than we have in a long time! Some people were carrying supplies and backpacks fit for World War III.
And in the Smokies, you pretty much have to stay in the shelters. Most people have to make reservations, but thru hikers can’t really, so we hope for the best. Well, the shelters were indeed crowded, but we always got space. The shelters were actually nice and critter-free as far as we could tell. I do believe Deal’s faith in shelters may be renewed!
Running into day hikers & section hikers lately has been really fun. Most already assume we are thru hikers and give us some much-needed words of encouragement on the fly. We even got our picture taken three times because of our thru hiker status! Plus, someone asked to take a picture of my feet one night at the shelter. The added bonus of running into all these people of course is getting extra food!
But I have to say, the best trail magic came from within this week. Let me preface by saying we were a little “light” on food supplies in the Smokies. We resupplied in Hot Springs, but planned to stop at Standing Bear Farm, a hostel with a camp store, 2 days later. We called ahead to make sure the camp store was still open and the woman said, “yep! We have everything you need!” Well, that was an understatement. When we got there, the owner said “oh sorry. When Southbounders get here, I usually don’t have very much in stock.” We pieced together what we could and made do.
So fast forward 2 days and we were all hungry. We knew there was a road crossing in the Smokies. Fire Marshall decided a hitch to Gatlinburg (which is close to Dollywood) was necessary for survival. So off he went. He got to the shelter that night with 5 lbs of SUBWAY sandwiches! Plus extra food supplies! Our hero! The funny thing is, he left camp that morning the same time as us, hitched into town 16 miles, bought food, hitched 16 miles back to the trail, and got to the shelter just 30 minutes after us! Sometimes, I swear that boy has wings!
The Smokies were overall a great experience. We spent most of our time above 4,000 feet and ridge walking, thus coming across beautiful views around almost every corner. We also hit the highest point on the AT (6,643 feet) at Clingmans Dome. We couldn’t see anything though because it was on one of the rainy days.
We saw no bears in the park! Between 400 & 600 bears reside in the park. And we saw none. Maybe they were all hibernating because of the weather?? In fact, we saw no wildlife, aside from a few wild turkeys and a bunny!
On a side note, before we actually hit the Smokies, we got a glimpse from Max Patch bald, where we camped. It was very, very windy up there, but the 360-degree views were so worth it!
So we are done with weaving in and out of Tennessee and North Carolina. Next up, 87.6 miles in only North Carolina (pictured below). Which also means there are definitely privies! It’s the simple things in life that make me happy!
Like I said, we have a total of 162 miles left. We literally feel your support and feel like y’all are right there with us while we are on the trail, so don’t stop now for the last 10 days! And let’s hope all our gear and bodies can hold up!!