Left early for the big day into Franklin. After a couple miles I made it to Wayah Bald Observation tower. I was thrilled, I saw two packs on the ground. I dropped my pack and ran to the top. The saw me coming up and remember who I was. With such a bad memory, I had to ask. Things added up, no wonder I forgot. I met this couple for a couple hours way up in the town of Dalton. That’s crazy, it was probably about 1000 miles ago. Real nice couple, I think they were from Germany. Chatted a bit and hit the trail into town. Made it to US 64, perfect timing it was still light out. Tried going to the grocery store but missed the exit, so I ended up at Walmart. That eventually turned out to be the better option. I was able to plug in my phone and eat. Got my food ready for the last time. All my “lasts” were coming to an end, it was quite sad. But the show must go on. Got everything done quick, but I really wanted to charge my phone. So I decided I would sleep in the bathroom at Walmart and wait for my phone to charge. By the time I got going and charged my electronics it was 4 am. Figuring I’d have a small chance a catching a ride that early, but I was anxious. I usually don’t ask people unless it’s a really hard hitch. I asked a lady coming into the store. She hesitated and then said I should ask this sheriff coming in the door. I asked the lady sheriff and she said she couldn’t. I was really bummed about her answer, since there is nothing going on at 4 am. But that’s how it goes. I put on my hitch hiking pack cover and started walking out the door. Ha, then the first girl said she could take me if I showed her my id. Real nice lady after we got to talking on the way to the trail.
Cold crispy morning. The grass crunched every step. Dozen miles later, I came to Fontana Dam. As I poked my head over the edge, it looked a lot bigger than I anticipated. Swung into the bathroom to wash a pair of socks and to dry them off. Met an older guy going north bound. I told him, “Buddy you’re going the wrong way.” He def wasn’t thru hiking, so I wasn’t quite sure what he was doing. Had a solid climb back to the top. Had to keep hopping across streams, tons and tons of water everywhere. Came down to a neat smaller shelter for only six hikers. Made it to Sassafras Gap Shelter and called it a night.
Rough morning, I really didn’t want to get out of my sleeping bag. Woke up to frozen socks and shoes. After smashing them into the wall they flexible enough to get on my feet. My shoes were so frozen, I barely got them on. I had no chance of tying the shoelaces, so I packed up Very Very quickly and hit the trail. Putting on my wet clothes and frozen shoes dropped my temp. Power walked to try warming up. Eventually, it helped and I was able to tie my shoelaces. Today was just like yesterday, nothing but walking thru streams. The rain stopped just before I made it to Clingmans Dome (6,643 feet). Clingmans Dome is the highest point on the A.T. With the nice observation tower, I was able to get 360-degree views. The Smokeys have definitely lived up to their hype. I saw a black bear before coming to the shelter. Made it down to a shelter for another cold night. At least the rain stopped, I was able to dry out some socks. If it would have rained all day, I probably would have had to hit up the next town and taken a day off. My feet were just getting tore up. Made some grub fast and hopped in my bag.
Slept like a rock and didn’t want to leave one bit. Washed clothes and dried them before heading out. That made for a late start, but 8 o’clock wasn’t too shabby with everything I accomplished for a morning. Too bad I did get an earlier start because it really effected the rest of the day. By the time I left it started misting again. Lucky Me. I made my ascent to the Smokeys. On the way up it was nothing but walking in the stream. There had been so much water the last couple of days, the trail was a constant stream. The rain made the views minimal again, but the Smokeys were still beautiful. Made it to the top and it was nothing but smooth sailing from there. Still was able to make it 31 miles to Ice Springs Shelter. No sign of anyone in the Smokeys. I wouldn’t blame em, it was quite rough walking in a stream all day. Gathered some water at camp and made food. As I was eating, a mouse jumped up on my food bag and started knowing at the plastic to get to the food. I was irate, this happened while I was sitting just a foot away. I was prepared for when came back a second time. I grabbed my shoe and toasted him. I was still freezing my butt off, I huddled in my sleeping bag till I warmed up. Hopped out of my sleeping bag to smash out the chores before passing out.
Lucky me, nothing but rain in the forecast the next 4 days. Kept waking up in the middle of the night for some reason. Got all packed up and headed out into the rain. Nothing but a climb to get back up in the mountains. After a couple miles, I was hovering the tops again. The fog covered up a lot of the views. I ran into a girl going north bound, not sure if she was doing a section or what. Was nice to run into someone, knowing I’m not the only one out here. Later on I was able to me make it over Max Patch. I was trying to race the dark, so I started running on the down hills. 1 it feels easier on my knees. 2 make some solid time. As I was running I jumped on a slippery rock and did a huge face plant. My arm hit hard with my pack landing on me. Instantly went numb, I was just nervous if it was broken. I carried my arm close to my body like it was in a sling. Hoping that would help. The bleeding eventually stopped. Had one more solid climb up and back down to the valley where I planned on staying at Standing Bear Hostel. After a half hour of night hiking, I hit the road to the hostel. Next to the road was a beautiful stream, couldn’t see it cause the night. It sounded quite important and I couldn’t wait to see it in the morning. I got into the bunkhouse for the hikers and just sat down on a chair by the wood stove. No one else was there, which was a bummer cause this hostel was awesome. They had a resupply store and had virtually everything you would ever need. I was brutally in pain after hiking in the rain all day today and the previous days. My feet were breaking down and it didn’t help I only drank 1 liter for the last 25 MILES. Yes, that was really stupid, but I really didn’t want to stop and purify water in the rain. Met a kid that has been working for the hostel for about a year. He was an interesting character. Had funky hair color and he had been traveling the world. I think he was 21 and I think he has been to 19 countries. I was quite impressed. Rested with my feet in the air the rest of the night.
With mice constantly scratching all night, a deep sleep was impossible. Even with being on the Appalachian Trail this long, YES mice still keep me awake. Those curious buggers are definitely crawling on me all night, which doesn’t help me sleep very well. I know, because there would be mouse turds on my sleeping bag. I woke up multiple times last night, screaming and yelling while pounding on the shelter to get the mice to shut up. That would only get them to stop for a half a minute tops. Sleep was short lived. Today I am shooting for Hot Springs. With 41 miles into town, this will be the biggest day for me on the Appalachian Trail. With rain during the night, the grass was nice and soggy to walk thru. A foggy morning didn’t help with keeping my feet dry either. Passed some pretty steep rivers in the morning. That was a bummer cause the White Rock Cliffs were extremely scenic. I was way up high on a ridge, all the trees were stunted midget trees. When I got off the ridge it started to down pour and there was no chance it would stop the rest of the day. It started getting dark out. The only light I had was from my cell phone. With the screen getting wet, it would freak out and turn the light off. This was a constant struggle the rest the night till I got to town. The last leg of the day ended with coming down from Lovers Leap. Slowly but surely I made it down into town. With my pace slowing down with low light and hiking in the dark, my temp dropped. Came to town not exactly sure what I was going to do. Went into the laundry mat to wash and dry my clothes. Hit up the Dollar Store and posted up for the night.
Woke up early anxious to get back on trail. Four and a half days off, was wayyy to many. It was ridiculous, but my legs are back up to 100% recharged and ready to go. Hit the trail running, to keep the expected finish date within reach. To finish on Dec. 7th, I would have to average 34 miles a day. With two resupplies it is going to be really difficult, but I must try. My parents are driving down from Minnesota today to pick me up. It is like a race to the finish line at Springer Mountain. Had some beautiful 360 degree views on Bald Mountain. Hiked a half hour in the dark before reaching HogBack Ridge Shelter. Nice little shelter, but I saw a few mice running around. Hopefully the mice won’t keep me up tonight. I’m shooting for Hot Springs tomorrow, so a good night’s rest is crucial.
Woke up and was still plump. So I headed to the Dollar Store to take Baltimore Jacks offer with taking food and gear to Standing Bear Hostel. It is just before the Smokeys, so I’ll be able to go all the way thru the Smokeys without resupplying halfway. Came back and helped load up the van and cleaned up the Community Center. Hung outside for an hour chilling before heading back to Ms. Janets house. Relaxed and kicked back the rest of the night.
Happy Thanksgiving ! ! ! Bright and early morning getting everything cooking. Started smelling better every minute. More and more people kept showing up from every direction. We had to split the table and double the chairs, there were so many people. Quite the day to remember. Some kids grabbed the food dishes out of Ms. Janets van. Endless amounts of help with everyone doing something small for the big picture was amazing. Ms. Janet, Baltimore Jack, So Way, E-Brake, Morning Wood, Finn, Macklemore, Handsome Mouth, Hemp, Optimistic Dreamer, Apple, Green Giant were a few that I can list off that made it. The weather couldn’t have been any better, mostly hanging outside, being it was in the 60’s. Climbed “THE” rock overlooking the rafting company and the whole town. Hung out and went to the bar the rest of the night and watched the Packers/Bears game with retiring of Brett Favre’s and Bart Star’s number. Def the day to never forget.
Been getting used to sleeping in a little much lately. Has been nice to switch up the pace before the last Horra ! ! ! Got my bag packed to head to Hot Springs and set up the day before Thanksgiving. Hot Springs is a nice small town out in the mountains. Walked around to see the touristy stores with Finn. There is a massive rafting river next to the town that draws lots of tourists. Played catch with the football, was another solid chill day.