Miles hiked today: 10.7
Miles hiked total: 176.8
Miles to go: 2008.5
I said goodbye to Chrissy and Gatlinburg this morning and got picked up by Vesna at 9:00. While it will be different hiking alone (and perhaps lonely at times), I’m rather excited for the change. Part of the reason I’m out here is to become more self-reliant and comfortable being on my own, and now that I’m officially by myself, I’m excited to see what the hike brings and what new challenges I’ll face.
I got dropped off at the Visitor Center around 11:00 and, lucky me and to my surprise, Toasted Toad, Townie, and Good N Plenty were there waiting for me.
I don’t think I’ve given any details on who these people are (my bad), so allow me to introduce them to you:
Toasted Toad is from South Carolina and is a retired paramedic and federal agent. He’s also hilarious and has a strong Rhode Island fisherman’s accent that helps me identify him even when I can’t see his face. I met him my third day on the trail after the bathroom incident and he’s responsible for spreading the story up and down the trail. He also let me know that he and a bunch of other hikers almost gave me a bathroom-related trail name. Thankfully he suggested Bluebird first and I went with that before anything else stuck.
Townie is in his 30s and is from Oregon. This is his first time on the East Coast. He actually started the trail in early March, but got a bunch of injuries one after the other and spent more time in town than on the trail, which is how he got his trail name. He’s doing well now, though – no injuries for a while! But he still does love his trips to town (as do we all).
Good N Plenty is also in her 30s and she currently lives in Florida. Her friend hiked Georgia with her, but now she’s on her own. She got her trail name when eating the candy with Toasted Toad and she noted that “Good N Plenty” would make a good name, and Toasted Toad agreed, so she went with it.
I was so excited to see them! I thought I’d be starting the Smokies alone since all my friends started a day earlier and was relieved to see this wasn’t the case. I was also happy to see Toasted Toad because it meant I could give him his food and not have to carry it up the mountain myself.
So the four of us set off around 11:30, a rather late start, but the sun was out so we didn’t complain. At least, at first. But then we started hiking up to the Shuckstack Fire Tower, and the sun suddenly felt too hot and our packs too heavy and we all became exhausted very quickly. I was carrying 6 days worth of food and my pack just wasn’t comfortable and it slowed me down. I put my music on and tried to get energized by listening to my workout music, and that did seem to help a little bit.
We stopped for lunch at the Tower 4.4 miles later (allllll uphill, I might add) and decided to hike to Mollies Ridge Shelter for the night, which was 6 miles away. I was originally planning on staying there, but the rest of the crew were interested in stopping at a campsite not far from the tower. I convinced them to change their minds, though, so onward we went.
Some things about the Smokies: you must stay at shelters. (The campsite coming into the Smokies was the only one for days.) If there is space in the shelter, you must sleep in it. Only when it is full are you allowed to pitch a tent or hammock. If a section hiker comes to the shelter, the last thru-hiker in the shelter must leave so that s/he can have the spot s/he reserved, no matter what the time of night. There are many other rules, all of which are slightly annoying as a thru-hiker. But ultimately what it comes down to is that I’ll most likely be spending these next few nights in shelters instead of my tent, which is a huge bummer. I prefer being in my tent and hate having to sleep next to total strangers who snore and fart all night.
So, we hiked on to Mollies Ridge Shelter, also all uphill. The rest of the hike wasn’t so bad. My body was beginning to adjust and my music kept me entertained. The scenery was also beautiful, so I stopped a couple of times to take pictures.
When I finally made it to the shelter, it was practically empty, so no tenting for me tonight. Sleeping with the mice it is!
What’s awesome about the shelters in the Smokies, though, is that they all have bear cables!! This makes me a very, very happy camper.