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The Great Smoky Mountains

2011 April 15

The Great Smoky Mountains lived up to both their name AND their reputation. Every day we hiked was cloudy… literally IN the clouds. Every single day had either rain, snow, hail or heavy fog, and all our pictures have a pure white backdrop due to the fog and clouds. So, definitely smoky.

In regards to reputation, we heard some big stories about both the park and mountains. The rules state all hikers hiking on the AT (anyone using that trail—thru-hiking or otherwise) must stay in shelters. The shelters hold 12-16 depending on the shelter, so overflow must camp within sight of the shelter, due to bears and other wildlife that has become accustomed to human contact and food. That means everyone tends to hike in clusters through the park, and the rules also state that thru-hikers are the bottom of the food chain. If we’re in a shelter and a day hiker or section hiker comes in, we have to give up our spot and set up our tent. I’m not sure of the reasons for that, but there has to be a hierarchy I suppose. Either way, with the bad weather we were ALL hoping for a shelter each night. We were VERY lucky and got a spot every night. Usually because we stopped earlier than most and/or hiked fewer miles, so we made slower time through the park than most. BUT we were in shelters and were warm – the shelters had working fireplaces inside and tarps to defend against the whipping wind.

As for the mountains, the terrain wasn’t honestly as bad as everyone had led us to believe. Climbing up from Fontana was tough, but once we were in the park the trail was well-maintained, the signs were great, the shelters were in good condition, and the climbs and descents weren’t bad. You may be able to chalk that up to our new massive thighs and calves, but we were happy with that stretch of the hike. The mountains revealed hints of spring with a mix of snowy and windy winter. We were definitely glad to have our winter gear still here – even though the week before we had sweat through our shorts and t-shirts every single day. In fact, some days we took walking breaks or no breaks at all just to keep moving in the bitter wind!

When we got into Gatlinburg (via newfound gap), we stayed the first day in the Grand Prix hotel. It was a nice, cheap room and very laid back – full of thru-hikers. We had a good time, but decided after the night’s stay we needed at least an extra day to heal Liz’s hurting/burning/numb arch. We were just in time to hit our timeshare reservation in Sevierville just north of Gatlinburg, so we took a few trolleys and ended up in a warm, comfortable and FREE condo near a WalMart and a Fuddruckers! We got pulled into the town vortex and stayed three zero days. Liz’s feet were feeling marginally better, but since they seemed to be healing we decided we needed to kick free and hit the trail. It was rough, but we got a nice 11 mile day in after hitching to newfound gap and getting started around 1pm. Not too shabby!

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4 Responses leave one →
  1. Mom and pop hass permalink
    April 15, 2011

    WAY COOL!!!!! (litteraly)

  2. Jay Davis permalink
    April 15, 2011

    I became a new member to CIWC and some of the members told me that you two were hiking the AT. I have been checking out your blog everyday. My brother and I and section hiking the AT this fall. I love following people on the trail.

    I hope when you get back I will get to meet you. I would love to hear about your experiences.

    Happy Trails!

    • April 16, 2011

      Hey yeah I’d love to meet you. I think I did see your blog online before we left or maybe one town where we had service? Either way definitely make sure we talk when we get back. Should be late August…

  3. April 15, 2011

    I was waiting to hear the rest of your visit in Gatlinburg and the Smokies. Awesome!

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