Miles hiked today: 14.9
Miles hiked total: 217.2
Miles to go: 1968.1
Today I met back up with the gang that started hiking the Smokies a day ahead of me because I took a zero day in Gatlinburg.
Townie and I started hiking today around 8:00 and booked it to Newfound Gap. It was foggy and windy in the morning and the weather was just predicted to get worse. I started hiking with my under armour layers on but ended up having to strip a couple of layers off right there on the trail because of the humidity. Eventually a hiker named Hat Trick joined up with us as we hiked into the Gap. He’s in his 20s and is from Kentucky and is also vegan so we bonded over the pizza we both ate at the Mellow Mushroom. There might have been some drooling involved.
We got to the Gap a little after 10:00 and were able to use the bathroom and throw away trash. I changed into my tank top because of the humidity and when I came back out from the bathroom the shuttle to/from Gatlinburg pulled up and Wing It, Twist, True Story, Blacksmith, Beans, Boss, Stylez, and Wiki got out (I’ll do a separate post soon about who these people actually are).
Despite the humidity, it was incredibly cold out when standing still because of the wind, so I started hiking again and eventually Wing It, Beans, and Hat Trick caught up with me. We all hiked to the Icewater Shelter and ate lunch inside and joked about how the ridge runners would have a field day if they saw us eating inside. (Ridge runners are volunteers who hike through the Smokies and record how many thru-hikers there are for the ATC. They also try to enforce all the rules and regulations of the Smokies, though they have no authority to enforce any rules. They do have walkie talkies, though, and can summon a ranger if necessary.) I’m not normally a rule breaker, but it was just too cold and miserable to eat outside in the wind.
After eating, I layered up again because the temperature had dropped and started hiking. I had already hiked 7.6 miles and had 7.3 to go. It was raining when I left the shelter and pretty cold. I didn’t really see anyone as I hiked. Most people left the shelter before me and I hiked pretty slowly given the conditions, so I listened to my music for company.
When I finally reached the shelter, the rain decided to stop and everyone was able to make dinner outside. The shelter is also completely full tonight. It’s supposed to hold 12 hikers total, but we have 12 hikers on the bottom platform alone. We were determined to fit everyone inside so no one would have to sleep outside in the rain and cold.
Tomorrow is supposed to be even worse than today. It’s supposed to be only in the 30s while we’re hiking and the temperature’s supposed to drop to the teens tomorrow night. Thankfully, I only have 12.9 miles to go tomorrow, so I’ll hopefully reach the shelter early. It’s also mostly a “down” day, which may be a good or bad thing given the rain. BUT, tomorrow is my last full day in the Smokies! I’m so happy to get out of here!
Also, I’m so happy I caught up with all of my friends! The hike today was rather terrible given the cold, but showing up to the shelter with everyone here laughing and joking definitely changed the mood of the day for the better. Everyone’s snuggled close right now in the shelter, sharing body heat and such, and they’re catching me up on what I missed while they all took a Nero day in Gatlinburg, so I must go!