Day 109. Today was a scorcher. High humidity with temps up to the mid 80s, even at the 3,200 foot summit of Smarts Mountain. It was a great day to hike, but you could feel the heat by 7am, and it made today’s climbs pretty tough. But, with my shortened day of distance, I had lots of time for breaks … and even a mid-afternoon nap.
Last night’s shelter was packed, maybe a dozen people in total. But by the time I got out of bed, they were mostly gone. The sun is rising so early now, that people are breaking camp as early as 4:30 in the morning. Yeah, no thanks. And I thought my 6:30 wake up was early these days.
But given the anticipated heat today, I suppose it was understandable. I headed out around 7:30 and felt it almost immediately. The reliable water sources today were every 5 miles or so, but I still made sure to drink at least 1 full liter every time I filled up. I learned my lesson, I’m not gonna let myself get dehydrated on this trail again! And as I write this, knowing I probably drank a total of 6 liters today, I still don’t think it was enough.
After climbing down Moose Mountain, I had 2 more mountains to go up and over in today’s hike; one small, then one big. The first one was an unnamed 1000 foot climb straight up and back down over 3 miles. It looked like an equilateral triangle in the map, and felt like it too. Up up up, down down down. The views weren’t much, but this was just the primer for Smarts Mountain next.
Smarts Mountain was a beast. It’s 3,200 feet high and climbs straight up from a base of 1000 feet over 4 miles. It had some crazy steep sections, but also the most amazing views! Plenty of outcroppings of rock with visibility to dozens of mountains to the North and East … and at the top, wow. The summit has a fire tower that goes another 100 feet in the air, and your reward for the brave climb is a stunning 360 degree view of everything for miles and miles and miles. You could see the Greens on one side, and the Whites on the other. Just incredible. This is a popular dayhike, and it’s now clear why. Climbing this peak today brought back
painful fond memories of the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee.
Side note, when I reached the top, I was greeted by two familiar faces: Soulshine and The Kid. Not sure if I’ve mentioned them in the blog directly yet or not, but we’ve been leapfrogging each other since Virginia and they’ve become friendly acquaintances to hike with throughout most of my journey. Very nice retired couple from Canada, it was great to see them and briefly catch up on “trail news” of others. They were heading further than me today, but I’m sure I will see them again in Glencliff.
Just below the fire tower is an old ranger-station-turned-shelter where I sat and ate lunch. It was cool inside, and felt nice to get out of the heat and bugs for a while. So nice in fact, that I decided a nap was in order. I laid out on the bench inside and took a short but very refreshing siesta. Like I mentioned earlier, doing less miles this week allows for nice little conveniences like this. I woke refreshed after 30 minutes and then began the long march down.
At the base, about 4 miles later, is Jacobs Brook; a great water source and popular swimming hole. It had cooled down by this point in the afternoon, so I decided to skip the swim (though regretted it 5 minutes later). I don’t know why I keep skipping these great swim chances, nothing is more refreshing than a good dip in a forest lake or river! Oh well.
But I continued on, and after a quick 1.5 mile climb partially up Cube Mountain, I was at the shelter. It’s a unique hexagonal structure with room for 8 or 10 people, but only 3 of us are here. I met the other 2 (Red and Shaggy) last night at Moose Mountain Shelter, this being the 3rd Shaggy I’ve met out here. Because of the unique size and shape of the shelter, we all decided to set up our tents inside to escape the bugs and heat. Even with this setup (which I admit is not appropriate thruhiker behavior), 4 or 5 latecomers could still fit inside. But it looks to be just us, and I’m taking up the same space against one of the walls I normally would on the floor, so I’m not too worried (photo above).
No surprise, because of today’s heat, there are T-storms expected tomorrow. It’s only 15 miles to Glencliff, but I doubt I’ll be able to avoid the storm even if I get up at 4:30. Which we all know I won’t.
Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)
- Start Mile: 1759.7
- Start Time: 07:30
- End Mile: 1777.4
- End Time: 16:15
- Miles Hiked: 17.7
- Miles to Go: 413.5
- Lodging: Hexacuba Shelter