Sunday, May 12, 2013

GSMNP Rewind: Part 1 5/2/2013-5/4/2013

I entered Great Smoky Mountain National Park with Gronk and Bonjour on May 2nd after a resupply in Robbinsville and a stay at the Hike Inn the night before. I dropped the carbon-copy of my thru-hiker permit in the box on the way in. This is the first year a fee has been required for thru or section hikers in the park. I purchased it over the phone from a park ranger, and the fee was $20, which gave me an 8-day window to cover the 72 miles the AT runs through the park. The first day was a challenging climb, but had nice views (one being the Shuckstack fire tower in a previous post). To reduce impact in the area of the United States' most visited park, camping was not allowed. We were restricted to staying in shelters, which limited our movement through the park. The shelters were quite a bit nicer than I had previously encountered. They were still 3-sided structures, but most had a fireplace and were built of stone, instead of wood. Temperatures on the first night were in the mid-30's. Wind gusts of up to 50 mph blew past the shelter, causing the flu on the fireplace to draft improperly, filling the structure with smoke. In addition, the shelter had no privy. Instead, there was a designated area about 50-yards from the shelter which looked like a minefield of poorly dug catholes. 

The hike on the second day was partly foggy, but I did have a chance to see some nice views. I caught up to Wings and hiked with her for the rest of the day. Wings had left work on a community farm near Boston to hike the trail, with plans to return to school in the fall to pursue a PhD. on our hike, we had the opportunity to meet not only one, but two Ridgerunners. It was quite unique to meet two in the same day since there are only 23 for the entire 2,180 mile length of the AT. Ridgerunners are employed by the overseeing body of the AT, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. They collect thru-hiker data, such as what shelters you had used, how far you were hiking, or what state you were from. In addition, they were a great source of information about bear activity or weather reports. Because rain was moving in to the area the next day we pushed hard, making this my biggest day yet, hiking 17.5 miles. We stayed at Silers Bald shelter for the night, which was packed with a few other thru-hikers, as well as some section hikers. Similar to the night before, cold temps and high winds made sleeping difficult. The next morning, Wings and I ate a quick breakfast and hit the trail around 8am. It was cold and foggy, but we only had 5.5 miles to hike to Clingman's Dome (the highest elevation point on the AT at 6,643'), where we would get a ride down to Gatlinburg. The short hike was absent of views and the winds almost blew me over as we hiked the mountain ridge leading up to the Dome. Although the hike was a little unpleasant, I was excited to get to Gatlinburg, where I would meet my cousin Kyle who had 3-months earlier moved to nearby Knoxville from Kuwait City...

1 comment:

  1. Why is the shirt just hanging there over a sign? Or maybe it's a jacket? Did a bear wrestle someone for it and win, then forget to take it back into the forest?