Talking with my shelter mates Braids and Pitstop tonight, we all agree that the Smokies are not our favorite section. Here are our reasons. The ATC ridge runners act like babysitter cops and stop and ask you for your permit in the most unfriendly ways possible. You are required to stay in shelters with the constant threat that you can be kicked out at any time during the night by a section hiker with a reservation. Don’t ask me to explain this rule since it makes no sense. Finally, no trail magic! At least not yet. There is just one road that crosses the AT in the park and we haven’t gotten there yet.
The funk doesn’t take hold for long especially when you get to these amazing mountain tops and are surrounded by 360 degrees of rolling blue hills that truly do smoke in the late afternoon. As I was coming into the shelter around 5pm tonight there was a beautiful plume of smokey clouds rising out of the valley in a light rain. Interrupted, or course, by another ridge runner asking about my permit!
About midday I met a trail volunteer that was out doing maintenance. Neil and I were talking about how awesome it would be to run along the trails with a big ass saw and cut out the downed trees in the trails. We were right! This 5 foot saw is as cool as it looks. Lucky devil.
I treated myself to a leisurely lunch and a cup of coffee along the trail. I still haven’t really perfected the art of the partial lunch unpack and end up dumping the entire contents of my pack out all over the place until I find what I need. I can pee without stopping the hike (yes, off trail) so I’m proud of that. I found a cool view point and made a trail burrito. I am really happy with my new food choices that I picked up in Fontana. I have a lot more variety and it’s stuff I actually want to eat right now. We are all trading recipies and ingredients with each other and coming up with some pretty tasty and healthy trail cuisine.
Not thrilled about another night in the shelter – especially after last night. Socrates’ alarm went off at 4am and woke everyone except him. It went off for about 10 minutes before Chives started kicking him in the side. So many questions. An alarm on the AT? 4am? Socrates? The word on the trail is that it isn’t cool to get a philosopher trail name. Fortunately I have a great set of friendly bunk mates tonight and looking forward to setting off with them in the morning to climb up and over Clingman’s Dome. Next post – things to be afraid of in the Smokies.