Day 19. I have to hand it to the rangers of GSMNP. This part of the Appalachian Trail is really well maintained. Wide trails, clear of roots and rocks, and switchbacks galore. It’s very easily to bang out miles when the weather cooperates.
And guess what, the weather cooperated! After all that talk yesterday, it ended up being a mostly clear and nice day. It just goes to show, you simply can never trust Mountain whether (somewhere my dad is screaming “I told you!”). There was a sprinkle of rain around 1am, but everything was dry by morning. We did have another short shower at 1pm, but I was fortunately very close to a shelter and was able to pop in for a late an dry lunch. All in all, a good day of hiking.
There was a plan today, but as usual I scrapped it. I originally expected to go all the way to Double Spring Gap Shelter (16.4 Miles), but when I finally arrived at Siler’s Bald Shelter (14.7), it was already 5:15pm. I made dinner and contemplated the extra 1.7 hike as wind, fog and cold set in fast … so I made the brave decision to stay put. Nubs, Culligan, and Fun Facts made it here shortly later as well, so part of the tramily is back together.
I know I said I wouldn’t, but I’m going to try to sleep in the shelter tonight. With the fireplace an wind-blocking tarps, it should be warm enough. I’ll probably tell you tomorrow how bad a decision this was, but with rain already coming down … at least I’ll be dry come morning.
Side note, I have to admit, this week’s dinner is amazing. My recipe for backpacker walking tacos turned out better than I expected. Meaty, cheesy, hot, and delicious. I should sell this baby to Mountain House.
Reflecting on the day’s hike, I am very happy to report this was the first day following a 15-miler that I woke up without any pain or soreness. I stretch at the start and end of each day, and work the arches with my pickle ball at night as well, but I’ve always woken up sore. Not today friends. Today I woke up feeling great and finished the day feeling great. Those trail legs are slowly being found. Again, this may have to do with the very neat and tidy trail. It does wonders for you body when you aren’t constantly slipping on rocks and tripping on roots.
As I hiked most of the day alone, I had a lot of time to think. Today’s music playlist was mainly female pop-stars so I also had some time to sing with Miley, Taylor, Sia, and GaGa. But in-between karaoke sessions, I thought about what motivates me on the trail. A good tune does not hurt (queue Miley Cyrus’ The Climb), but small rewards are also key…
- Four miles to the water source, get there and down a bottle of water.
- One mile to the next summit bald, at the top you can drop your pack for a few minutes.
- When you reach the next gap/plateau, have a candy treat.
Yes, obviously food, water, and rest are the best rewards. My dad used to always bring hard candies like root beer barrels on hiking trips, and I totally get it now. It’s a nice treat and lasts long enough to get you to the next small reward. Sneaky gimmick, but it does the trick.
One highlight today was a mountain summit called Rocky Top. Besides the Osbourne Brothers song playing in my head, it was also great because of the view. When I got to the top, I yelled out a “YO” to here the echo resonate off the valleys below. It was thunderous! And to my delight, it was answered by yelps and howls from other hikers below as well. As I headed down the other aide, I heard hiker after hiker reach the top and give their own war-cry to the wilderness. Each was of course answered the same way as for me. Such a cool experience.
We officially crossed in to Tennessee at some point today, though we will cross back and forth to NC many more times throughout the Smokies. Still, the 3rd state was reached which is a big milestone. Another big one is tomorrow, as we’ll cross the 200 mile mark just after submitting Clingman’s Dome. You could see it through the trees most of the day, and even though it’s less than 1000 ft higher than our current elevation … looks like a beast of a challenge. Tomorrow should be fun indeed. As usual, fingers crossed for warm weather and a clear day.
Hey, fun fact! As of today, there are less than 2000 miles left to Katahdin. Woot!
- Start Mile: 180.4
- Start Time: 09:05
- End Mile: 195.1
- End Time: 17:15
- Miles Hiked: 14.7
- Miles to Go: 1995.8
- Lodging: Silers Bald Shelter