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Day 21

Double Spring Gap shelter to Newfound Gap – 10.8 miles
206.8 / 1978.5

After 2 straight days of rain we heard it was supposed to clear up. It did, after snowing about a foot. We woke up to freezing temps again, and the snow had actually blown UP the walks, over it, and all over our bags and clothes. I managed to melt a shoelace by the fire, step in the stream before leaving, so my feet were soaked, before stepping out into the 20’s, and fresh powder.

But how beautiful!! The pines were all covered in white, even the sides of the trees, there was no path, no trail to follow, no white blazes to see, and we had the highest peak on the trail to climb, with 10 miles to go. Most people just danced around trying to warm up, hoping someone else would go first. The German kid went for it!

We left around 10 in small groups, I must have taken a hundred pictures on the way. We got to Clingmans Dome at noon (3 miles in 2 hours). The wind was whipping, the views were spotty (when the clouds weren’t blasting 40 miles into you) but it was the definition of back county beautiful. We had lunch at Clingmans Dome, and realized we still had just over 7 miles to go and the going was tough.

When the snow melted in flatter areas it turned to mud slush puddles. My feet were saturated. When it wasn’t melted, it was around 2 feet and it was easy to lose the poles. But what a unique experience! I’ll remember this day of hiking for the rest of my life. This trail can be like that, it will be a terrible day and you just can’t wait for it to be over, and the next day will be one if your best!

Once at Newfound Gap, I was dreary, wet, tired, hungry, and low and behold, there was Jimmy who slack packed us into Fontana dam. He offered us a dr pepper (yessssss) and a free 15 mile ride to Gatlinburg. He gave us some great advice about hot springs, which I took note!

Once in Gatlinburg, I ordered an entire large pizza and murdered it solo. I was still hungry. It was good to sleep in a bed after the last 3 soaking wet cold days.

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Day 20

Derrick Knob shelter to Double Spring Gap shelter – 7.2 miles
196 / 1989.3

It continued raining on and off all night, and we woke up to rain. We heard rumors that the rain was supposed to stop around 12 so some people waited til then to leave. Those rumors were false! It didn’t start really raining until 12! We left at 10:45 and slept in. Around 12 we were halfway through and feeling good, but then the rain came. And we got soaked. I managed to stay somewhat dry for the first half hour. But at this point the trails were literally mud puddles and or rivers, with waterfalls coming down each step. My shoes had reached 100% saturation and were now squishing with each step. We stopped in a shelter after the first 5 miles and had lunch. 2 granola bars, snickers, a tortilla with summer sausage and relish, and some almonds. Food gets interesting, wait until I tell you what I had for dinner!

We made it to this shelter around 2:30 and 2 ppl were currently here. We hung line to dry, and the shelter started filling up. We have 16 currently, with one poor soul camped outside in the rain that has now turned to snow. We are at 5511 feet and it’s getting cold! So back to dinner. I tried ‘hikers pad Thai’ which essentially for me was a pasta side, chicken flavored fettuccini, ramen, peanut butter, and hot sauce. It might have tasted amazing because I’ve been in the woods for 3 weeks or maybe because it’s really good?

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Day 19

Mollies Ridge shelter to Derrick Knob shelter – 12 miles
188.8 / 1996.5

Less than 2000 miles to go! Every shelter in the Smokies has fireplaces! Which is awesome because it rained today. It was a cloud of mist and the trees were raining when we got up. It was very windy all night at the mollie ridge shelter, which might be why nobody snored ?

Our group keeps expanding, who knows when people will start solo hiking. Tonight in the shelter we have fresh, winging it, Dirty Harry, reroute, misty, Socrates, 3 thumbs, leprechaun, Starbucks and 3 people I don’t know or forgot their names.

The day was super misty, the bald mountains we went over were like a different ecosystem altogether. It looked like a farm with an orchard on top of a mountain. We had no views because of the fog, but it was still a thrilling experience. The fresh mountain air, the wind whipping a bit, the smell of the forest after the rain, even the trail seemed mystic. It was unique, and hey-it beats working! 🙂

The rain came around 12, and that changed everything. It was hard and it made the trail slick with mud. It rained the entire remaining 3 hours til we showed up to the shelter. We all somehow made room, a fire is blazing, our stuff hanging to dry, and life is good.

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Day 18

Fontana Dam Hilton to Mollies Shelter – 11 miles
176.8 / 2008.5

Spent the night at the Hilton And woke up early to catch the sunrise on the lake and cross the Fontana Dam for some trail magic. My energy is kind of low recently as I feel I’m either getting sick or have allergies.

We entered the Smokey Mountains today and they have been pretty tough! A lot of steep up and downs, but some pretty great views. The highlight of the day is the shelter were stayng at, mollies shelter. All made of stone, it has a fire place and tarps over the front to prevent the wind from getting in, which is good because it is howling.

Met some new they hikers today, there are about 12 of us in here. Sorry this will be a short post because I am beat.

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Day 17

Brown Fork Gap shelter to Fontana Dam shelter “Fontana Hilton” – 12.7 miles
165.8 / 2019.5

So tired. Although I am writing this from a beautiful view at the ‘Hilton’ of the shelters, drinking a beer, I am beat. Ps, everything around 1700 feet is blooming.. But barely slept last night, everyone crammed in like sardines. The cold came quick and was relentless. A shelter only has 3 walls so when it’s windy it gets real cold. It hit about 15.

Besides the not sleeping part, I woke up, put wet socks on and then frozen shoes. You could literally hear my shoes creak apart as I tried to move them. But shortly the day became awesome. We moved quickly, across fields of snow and ice, murdering 6 miles in 2 hours. We came across a guy in his truck, asked if we would like to ‘slack pack’ (he drives our packs to our destination and we walk wicked light footed). The next 6 miles were like walking on the moon. We passed a Canadian couple that offered us a hitch to Fontana Village, more awesomeness.

Once in the village we stocked up on food and beer, tomorrow we are hitting the Smokey Mountains, I’m so pumped. A nice lady who hikes the same pace as us, is setting up trail magic tomorrow morning, including whiskey and breakfast. Yessss!

Tonight we met hilarious kids with giant campfire, staying at the hilton for days, cooking great food on a lake. They gave me a pepperoni quesadilla and we drank some beers and life is good!

Smokey mountains tomorrow! Can’t wait!

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Day 16

Sassafras Gap shelter to Brown Fork Gap shelter – 9.1 miles
153.1 / 2032.2

We’ve been hiking over 150 miles so far in just over 2 weeks and it’s 6 days after spring and now it snows. We woke up to about 4 inches of it, untouched, pristine, winter wonderland. It was beautiful. We decided to hike 9 miles as it would be wet and easy to slip in. We got to the top of cheoa bald and it was absolutely stunning. Had a snack took many many photos, videos etc and went on our way.

It snowed off and on all day, we had some real tough climbs including Jacobs ladder and it was slushy muddy snowy windy etc. it was like that part in lord of the rings where saramon casts the winter spell while they are trying to pass the mountains to mordor. You know what im talking about!

Anyways it’s 24 degrees and were all in a shelter freezing. Geared up showed up last so now we got 10 in an 8 person shelter. Going to be 10-15 degrees tonight. We are all joking about dying, it’s been great fun. I hope to post more soon, I’m just too cold!

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Day 15

Wesser Bald shelter to Sassafras Gap shelter – 12.6 miles
144 / 2041.3

‘Everything is as it should be, in this moment’. You might hear me say this a lot, as I am easily excitable, but today had to of been the best day of the hike! I woke up at 7:30 and checked my watch for the temp, it was 21 degrees. Eff that noise, back to bed. Got up at 8:30, it was 22. Perfect, got up and went to find the sun. Water bottles had all frozen, but I knew it was going to be a beautiful day.

We ate breakfast and I was the last one to leave the shelter around 9:45. I quickly caught up with fresh and later reroute. We hiked for a mile before we came to the most beautiful mountain view, the jump off. We chilled and took pics, I took a video that I post in my video link under the videos tab when I have service. After an hour I could see the river. I suddenly knew where we were going, I had seen it in pictures and videos.. The Nantahala outdoor center, or “the noc” as we call it. A beautiful river with rapids and kayaks, park benches and tourists, cheeseburgers and a post office! Oh man. I was so happy I was running down hill and singing sweet Caroline.

We spent 3 hours down there, stuffing face, charging phones, dipping feet in the river, and yes, sending snail mail. It was beautiful. It hit about 60 degrees and was sunny all day. We left at 3 pm for the hardest climb yet of the hike. 6.7 miles, all uphill, on full stomachs. 3000 feet uphill, in fact. The climb was so tough! The first 2 miles we were already drenched in sweat. After about 4 miles we were so tired but heard voices and found the dopest water filling spot ever, which I posted a pic of below. The climb wasn’t without beauty though. We climbed through rhododendron hallways with pine needle floors and walls of the greenest moss, past mossy waterfalls and views of the gorge down below. Today was a good day.

We finally made it and we are in the coziest shelter ever. We fit like 8 ppl on the first floor alone. We caught up with some thru hikers that started march 1st, they are taking their time and I am jealous. I’m glad this is a cozy night, shoulder to shoulder with reroute and winging it, because well, it’s going to snow tonight, and tomorrow is a low of 10 degrees.

I’m cold and tired, so time for bed! Remember – life is what you choose!

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Day 13

Winding stair gap to wayah bald shelter – 11 miles
120.8 / 2064.5

We were up at 7 am for the free shuttle to the free all you can eat pancakes and bacon breakfast put on by first baptist. The hangover was a little rough. I really have not been sleeping well. Ate so much and went home to take a nap, only to jolt out of bed at 8:59 and decide we’re taking the 9 am shuttle, packing furiously and made them wait 10 minutes.

We were dropped off at around 9:45 at winding stair gap and hiked about 11 miles, dying on the inside the entire way. We found trail magic of a 12 pack of cold Budweiser, Cheetos Doritos snickers all kinds of goodness. I sat down and had a bud and some Doritos, and packed another one to go. I was almost asleep on my feet 20 minutes later. I finally got to wayah bald mountain and the view was incredible! The last 2 miles I was limping pretty bad because the knee pain came back. Stupid knee. Might of had something to do with being dehydrated. I chilled up at the mountain view for about 30 minutes and limped my last mile to the shelter.

I was the only one here when I arrived it was nice. Fresh, Dirty Harry, djunko, misty and gretta Were pretty close behind. Also no name and his son. Were all eating dinner at the shelter and I’m so tired it’s going to be an early night.

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Day 14

Wayah Bald Shelter to Wesser Bald shelter 10.6 Miles
131.4 / 2053.9

Woke up in the shelter to pouring rain. I was immediately glad I chose to sleep in a shelter. Slept in til 8:30 ish and started to get breakfast going. I lazily hung my food bag so it was easy to grab. We left around 10 and I had plastic grocery bags wrapped around my glove liners to make the perfect rain gloves.

The rain stopped around 11 and it was just misty and a little cold for the rest of the day. We decided to go 12 miles, stopping 5 miles at cold springs shelter for lunch. Some guy offered me a homemade version of a drug I wouldn’t want to try anyways, and then asked for my empty peanut butter jar which I gladly gave him and we were on our way.

We rested in telico gap where we met a family wig found out we’ve been hiking since march 10th and were pretty excited about that. 2 weeks in the woods! Kinda cool. We made it to our current shelter where we found reroute! She had once again skipped ahead, bringing our hotdogs we forgot at the budget inn!! Whaaaaaat?! So awesome. This is why I write a blog, so people know where to find me, and can bring hot dogs and or hard liquor. Just kidding. But a great way to end the day! It’s currently 32 and dropping so I got in my bag and am about to freeze for the night. Goodnight!

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