Day 16 – Winter Wonderland

“A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.” – Carl Reiner

Miles hiked 12.1. Total miles 206.8

Went to sleep to rain… Woke up to snow! Getting packed up this morning was something else. The tent was very wet. A couple of stops ago I bought a piece of plastic to put under the tent – it was a great decision.

No time to eat or even drink this morning. In other words it was time to walk, it was time to get warm.

It was truly a winter wonderland out there. And if it had not made my feet freeze, it would have been perfect. But I’m walking in trail runners that are not waterproof, so the wet comes through.

But much of the day it was postcard perfect as far as views. The trail was still very wet and slushy – making it very slippery.

It was snowing at 7 AM when I  got up and never stopped throughout the day. I stayed pretty warm throughout the day with the exception of my hands and feet. The latex gloves over my gloves help tremendously to keep my hands dry.

Unfortunately with the snow the views were not there today. And of course today was the day we hiked the tallest mountain on the Appalachian Trail.

Clingman’s Dome is 6612 feet tall and at the top of the mountain is this monstrosity. A mile or two down there’s a large parking space that allows people to walk up the mountain to the structure. It has a walkway that circles around to allow people to get to the viewing platform.

The wind was fierce at the time, but to the top I went.

Here is a picture of the walkway going up to the top of the viewing platform.

The rest of the day was just making it to Newfoundland Gap to get into Gatlinburg. Gatlinburg means hot water, hot coffee and a hot meal.

This wonderful family from Michigan who were on vacation gave us a hitch into Gatlinburg. I’m telling you the trail angels and the trail magic have been outstanding this trip. I’ve met such great people.

The kids were doing a scavenger hunt that their mom had printed off for them and they had to find things along the way in order to check it off. One of the things was a hitchhiker! They did not have to stop to check off the box, but lucky for me they did!

Two more facts that I want to point out. I have crossed over into Tennessee and am now back in North Carolina.  The trail will weave back-and-forth between the states for some miles. Also just a mile after Clingmans Dome I  passed the 200 mile mark!

Finding me some red meat tonight for dinner,

Day 15 – Racing in the Rain… Lost big time!

“Rainy days should be spent at home with a cup of tea and a good book.” -Bill Watterson

Miles hiked today 17.7. Total miles 194.7.

Let me tell you last night was a hoot! The campground was a small city. There were probably 40 hikers in all. The campfire was high and people set around telling funny stories. Papa Smurf broke out one of the Jiffy Pop popcorn shaky things and the hilarity ensued. The young kids had never seen them and had no idea how they worked- so the old fogey stepped in and showed them how it was done.

I met two very nice young women and had some great conversation.

Bartender – Girl On Fire – Toothpaste. Yes my trail name is Girl On Fire. It was given to me buy a number of people – I think it’s going to stick.

Now on to today. Started hiking by 7:10a trying to beat the rain. Lost that race.

Started raining around 10:30a and rained for the next 4 1/2 hours. Finally it quit raining allowing my pants to dry, only to start raining right before we made camp.

This was the trail today.


Yep miserable was what I was 95% of today. Cold, wet, filthy, covered in mud. My shoes are soaked. They are also covered in mud. Will be a joy to put them on in the morning.

This picture was taken when my pants were dry – they got wet again.

The trail was a complete mess. Very, very slippery and dangerous in spots. I can’t say it was a joy walking today, even though we made over 17 miles. When it’s raining there’s nothing to do but walk.

The above picture is from my App AT hiker. I look at it to see where we are and how far we have to go – 3/10 miles to get to the shelter. Nothing has ever taken so long in my life. And of course it was uphill.

Made it to the shelter and of course it was raining by the time we got there. Set up the tent, ate dinner and was in bed by 7:30p. Forecast calls for snow.

Staying warm,

Day 14 – Entering the Smokies

Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.” -Back to the Future

Mile hike today 13.1. Total miles 177.

The lodge shuttle dropped us back on the trail and once again it was time to hike. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day.

I came over a hill and saw our first view of Fontana lake. Got to hike with it in our view for about 40 minutes.

It was simply a gorgeous morning.

We finally came upon the Fontana Dam shelter. It’s called the Fontana Hilton because it supposed to be so nice. I didn’t see anything that much different than any other shelter. I think it’s called the Hilton because it has flushable toilets nearby.

From the Hilton we followed the white blazes to the dam. They put the blazes on anything. Signs, walls, the street itself.

The man on the sign needs a backpack!

After walking on the road for just a little bit we hit the dam. It was pretty cool to see. The Appalachian Trail goes right over the dam. We stopped at the visitor center for about five minutes and looked around, then headed across the dam.

It was a very interesting walk across the dam. People that have a problem with heights probably would not like it – but I loved it – kept leaning over to see more.

Almost immediately after the dam you enter the great Smoky Mountains National Park. The 1st mile was a road and then we went back to dirt trails. The Smoky Mountain National Park has a lot of rules you have to follow. You cannot camp just anywhere. You must camp at a shelter. You must camp in the shelter if it’s not full. So you have to adjust your walking to make sure you end up at a shelter. 

Our first major goal was the fire look out tower at the top of Shuckstack Mountain. And let me tell you it was quite the climb. If you look really close you’ll see the fire lookout tower on the top of the mountain from below.

When we made it up to the tower, it was then time to climb the tower. Let me tell you, Jenga blocks were probably more steady than this tower. I am surprised they let people climb it… But climb it I did.

From the top the views were amazing. Looking one way you could see Fontana Lake and the dam.

It was very very windy! I was chilly even with my puffy coat on.

But oh my! The views!

Then it was time to head back down to the ground and make it to a shelter. There’s 1 million things to take pictures of along the way, but I loved this tree.

Made it to the shelter around 4:30 PM. Set up my tent, did dinner and now the blog.

Because everyone has to camp at a shelter, it’s a small city up here right now. There has to be over 30 hikers here. Here are all the food bags hanging by cables that the park has for us hikers specifically to keep the food away from the bears.

And finally for my son-in-law Scott – this one’s for you! Carried it all the way up the mountain so I could have it this evening Yum Yum.

Until tomorrow,

Day 13 – The Umbrella is a Great Invention

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to hike in the rain.” -Unknown 

Miles hiked today 13.4. Total miles 163.9. 

Got off to a very early start this morning. When tented by the side of road, traffic usually wakes you up.  Went into the brush to dig a hole and stepped in someone else’s poop! YUCK! There were three kids tented with us – evidently they don’t understand “leave no trace.”

It was not raining when I started out, but started misting soon after. One reason I wanted to early start is Jacobs Ladder was coming up. It starts around mile 151.5 and it is almost vertical. Tough, tough climb.

The clouds came in and pretty much covered everything. It was time to put up the umbrella because rain was coming.

And let me tell you it came! It rained on us for about five hours until we got to the lodge.

The bad part is that it fooled us. It was just the sprinkles that we usually walk through. But then in a matter of seconds the heavens opened up and we were drenched. Well, at least my compatriots were drenched – I had my umbrella up!

For about four hours I was wet from the waist down. My upper core remained pretty dry. It just kept on raining.

The trail was totally waterlogged. As you know water finds the least path of resistance – and that is usually the trail.

Shoes and socks were wet. Caked with mud. When the lodge was within hitching distance everyone was ready to call it a day.

Since everything was wet, the first thing on my mind was to get laundry done. Grabbed the plastic bag, got everyone’s laundry and headed down to the store where laundry was available. There was a line. I sat down and within 30 seconds everything went black. A huge lightning strike had just taken out the transformer above the laundry store. The guy putting quarters in the dryer got quite the shock.

Got a hitch back to the lodge from the hotel employee. Will wait a couple hours for them to fix the electricity and will get laundry done. But for now I’m warm and dry!

It is an adventure!

Day 12 – 100% Tired

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill

Miles hike today 13.4. Total miles 150.5. 

Let me first explain that the miles hiked today does not show the effort that was put in. We left the NOC and had a 7.7 mile uphill climb. My mantra for today was just… Breathe. The higher we went up the steeper it became. I set goals of 20 steps and then breath.  20 more steps then breathe. See that tree over there – just make it to that tree… And breathe.

This is Linda following. The terrain was buried with lots of rocks.

Of course we stopped a couple of times along the way. And from the general store at the NOC I bought my favorite snack.

Here is one of our stopping points with a beautiful overlook.

Then it was packed back up and we kept walking… Uphill!

When we finally made it to the top it was a beautiful panorama, but we were all so tired we just laid upon the ground. Did I mention it was a very very sunny day? Temps got up to 80 degrees. It was a grueling, hot hike.

My umbrella came in handy for shade at the top.

After we finally quit laying down, we set up to enjoy the view. At that point we had only hiked 7.7 miles. We needed to hike some more to get us closer so we could get to Fontana Dam the next day. So we got up and started down.

I did not take a lot of pictures of going down. But my friend Linda took this one. I leaned back and went too far and could not get back up. I said, “Give me a hand.”  She  said, “Wait, I’ve got to get a picture of this.” What are friends for? You can’t really tell, but it’s a huge incline and I was totally stuck.

We were hurrying down as fast as we could hoping there would be trail magic because there was a road in front of us. Alas, no such luck. 

But we did set up camp on an abandoned road close to a major highway and there were picnic tables which were a treat for us to eat at. It’s a parking area for people to walk the trail. As we were eating a trail angel came upon us, stopped the car and gave us water, bananas, and oranges. We love trail magic.

Not sure if you can see, but we set our tents up behind the road closed sign. Tomorrow we have a little over 13 miles until we reach Fontana.

Also wanted to point out there was a trashcan at this place. You never knew how valuable a trashcan was until you have to haul your trash everywhere you go.

Nite nite all

Day 11 – What Goes Up

“Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.” – Ed Viesturs

Miles high today 16.5. Total miles 137!

Remember how I told you I was going to regret it… Boy did I ever! Worst. Night.  Ever. It was a total Slip and Slide in my tent. I’d slide down, wake up, push myself back up. Repeat. Slide down, push myself back up. Repeat. It was also cold. I was not cold at night because my bag kept me warm, but when morning came and it was time to get everything put up and ready to hike I was freezing! I turned to my compatriots and said, “I’ll brush my teeth down the road. I’ve got to start hiking. I’m so cold” and I left everyone behind.

About 30 minutes after I started hiking, thinking I would warm up… It started raining. My fashion sense here on the Appalachian Trail is absolutely amazing. (Wink)

There is no way for this picture to actually show you what I see. Sometimes I feel like I am in the movie ‘Lord of the Rings’ and I’m in Frodo’s world. With all of the green mask that covers everything, sometimes this place is all inspiring. 

As we started to climb Wesser Bald – this was the sign that we encountered. The fire has truly done some damage to the trail. With all the weakened roots of the dead trees there have been many trees that have fallen across the trail. The volunteers are quick to clear them, but there is so much to clear and they continue to fall with their  weakened roots. 

The mist continued until about 11 o’clock. Giving us a wonderland to walk in. Then the sun came out.

And the views became incredible. Below are Mark and Juergen enjoying the view.

It seems like we passed quite a few roads today in our journey to the top. At one such stop we met Mr. Waters. If you look on his Jeep you will see he has ‘shuttle’ printed. He gives rides to different hikers. He is a 90 year old vet who does this just to have some fun. He stood around and talked to us for about a half an hour and offered the guys beers. And God bless his little heart, he had a Pepsi for me. 

At the top of our climb there was a tower and of course we climbed it. There was only one word to say – incredible! We had a 360° view. 

Then what goes up must come down. And let me tell you it was down, down, down, down, down. I climb down and then turned around and took a picture of Linda coming down-you can see the challenge that we faced. 

But a Snickers makes everything better. It is the go-to choice on the trail for extra energy. And believe me we do need extra energy.

At the bottom of the mountain is the NOC – The Nantahala Outdoor Center. The Appalachian Trail runs directly through the  NOC. But more importantly the NOC has a hostile and a restaurant!

They give you a towel. No sheets, no pillows, no washcloth, no amenities. Home sweet home, at least for tonight.

This place is set up much like a summer camp. They have bunks in rooms. And they have a communal shower for girls and a communal shower for boys. My compatriots and I all got cleaned up and then we headed to the restaurant for a hamburger. Along the way I came across this chair. Who remembers Edith Ann?

That’s it for tonight. I’m a happy camper. I have a mattress and a roof over my head. But most of all my bed is flat!

Tomorrow we have a huge mountain to climb. 7.7 miles up… I can’t say I’m looking forward to it.

Sweet dreams,

Day 10 – Late Start, Late Finish

“How sweet it is!” -Jackie Gleason

Miles hike today 14. Total miles hiked 120.5. 

This morning I had coffee! After a night of thunderstorms waking up dry, warm and refreshed was a wonderful thing. Then I  walked to McDonald’s and got the breakfast of champions, Sausage McMuffin!

At 11am we loaded onto the bus, headed back to Wallace Gap and started hiking. 

It was a late start because of the shuttle and we knew we had a destination in mind of Wayang Bald shelter, so we started pushing it.

I’ll tell you I’m tired of walking through forest that has been burnt. It makes me sad. When comes through the trees they shake, no, rattle and it sounds like an old lady turning over.

It seemed like today was a day of a lot of road crossings, but sometimes the views of the road really great.

Swinging Dick gap! Who names the standings? But I had to get a picture.

Here’s your photo of the day mom-what do you see?

 We had three peaks today and two false peaks. This was a false peak. Let me tell you, when you get up on top and you’re thinking, “Yay! I did it!” only to still have to get up, there’s little bit of disappointment there.

Not a lot of sunshine today and at one point I even had to put on my puffy coat. And let me tell you, I have to be cold to put on the puffy coat because you get so hot hiking that it soon comes off.

And then after walking almost 12 miles we come to the highlight of today! We come over a ridge and we see this paved surface. Notice the white blaze on the trashcan.

So we follow the road. It was leading us to All Fire Watch Tower that was all made of stone.

It was really something beautifully done and unfortunately the fire got to it and destroyed its roof.

But it’s crowning glory was it’s view! Oh Em Gee! So gorgeous! It went on forever. We arrived at this place at 6:20 PM. We could not stay as long as we wanted because camp was still about 3/10 of a mile farther along.

But we got some down time, some great photos and let me tell you we were on top of the world.

Arrived at camp about, I don’t know, 6:45pm and it was so full. Not a good place to pitch a tent. Finally pitched on an incline. 

I’m going to regret it…