Original posted on The Trek on April 29, 2017
Wrapping up the Smoky’s
After Frisbee’s birthday shenanigans, we had to say goodbye to Peanut, followed by Pharmacist and Ears (who wanted to explore the US some more before her visa ran out), and later to Panda, his wife and son.
Panda helped us run some errands before heading back home. The rest of us, PCP, Al (now known as “Bodhi”), Gumby, and Backtrack, waited at the NOC and shuttled back to Newfound Gap. My ankle was still annoying me, and a couple of others weren’t feeling too good either (plus it was raining), so we only hiked the 3 miles to Icewater Spring Shelter to rest our bodies.
The view from
Paul’s Charlie’s Bunion was nice, but was about the only view we got for most of the day.
Much of the rainy hiking in the morning was along ridge lines, unfortunately we were in a cloud the whole time, so looking beyond the ridge was complete whiteout. Still, even in the rain, the trail was very pretty along this section. The trees blocked some of the rain and the forest was mossy, green, and lush.
We stopped and attempted to dry off at Tri-Corner Knob Shelter. Being as cold and soggy as we were, we opted out of pushing forward anymore that day.
It was dumping rain all night so we dreaded getting out of our warm sleeping bags and back into our cold, wet hiking clothes. It stopped raining and started to clear up as we got our day going. We finally got to see some views and even made a pit stop at Mt Cammerer lookout tower. The lower the elevation got, the more fragrant and colorful our surroundings became.
We made great time and arrived early at Davenport Gap Shelter. Even though we watched a Black Rat snake move into the shelter, we decided to stick around. Right after that decision was made, it began to rain again. We were glad to be under a roof! Plus, the snake provided us a quiet night as he must have been feeding on all the noisy rodents that normally are running amuck.
It was great to finally be out of the Smoky’s!
We stopped at Standing Bear Hostel to grab our re-supply then took the humid, brutal, and long climb to get to Groundhog Creek Shelter. It was still early and the weather appeared to be holding up, so we pushed on to Max Patch.
Last year, it was too foggy to see two yards in front of you. This time we got some nice views! We had planned to camp there, but it was too windy and chilly, so we pushed on a little further to Roaring Fork Shelter for the night.
Flowers, Salamanders, and Spiders, Oh My!
My ankle was really tender the next day. Frisbee and I decided to take a zero day once we got into Hot Springs, and planned to cut miles back to 8-10 a day once we left town so I could hopefully start healing up. I’m bummed since this means our current tramily (PCP, Bodhi, Gumby, and Backtrack) will likely hike on. The trail was blooming, so I took my time to get to Deer Park Mountain Shelter.
On the way, I got a salamander in my water bottle when I filled up, so I relocated him to finer real estate at the next water source.
The shelter was a bit crumby, but we had some entertainment. A spider decided to stop in plain view to molt. It was freaky, yet fascinating. The Beard Brothers, Grizzly and Redbeard, who we had frequently ran into, were there to enjoy the display with us.
Beer Me, Hot Springs!
That same night, Gumby tried calling everywhere to get us all a room for our planned nero into Hot Springs with little luck at first. Our last option was the Spring Creek Tavern which had rooms for rent above it and we thought for sure would be filled. We were happy to be wrong! The next morning, we hiked the 3 miles into town and ate at the Smoky Mountain Diner before wandering around the outfitter.
The tavern opened, but the person in charge of the rental wasn’t available, so we enjoyed a number of brews as we waited.
Once our rooms were set, we exploded our belongings, bought more beer, then headed to Laughing Heart Hostel for the hiker feed (free food is always awesome).
The evening got fuzzy after that.