I woke up brighteyed and bushy-tailed this morning. I was really excited to begin hiking in the Smokies. Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the most visited national park in the country, as a result they have strict, asinine regulations about backcountry camping. Every hiker must sleep in a shelter. Only when a shelter is full are you allowed to camp outside of the shelter. Section hikers have priority over thru-hikers. This means if a shelter is full of thru-hikers and a section hiker comes strolling in at 10, a thru-hiker must get up and vacate the shelter. I have no desire to stay in shelters. They are full of strangers and everybody sleeps side by side. They usually are infested with mice and snoring lumberjacks. My hope is to find the shelters full and hang my hammock outside. I passed 2 shelters today, but both only had a few people staying. As a result I pushed on an extra 3 miles, hoping the next shelter would be full. My gamble paid off, but the end result was a very long day. I didn't get to my final destination until 7.
The only good thing about today was the rain held off until 6:45. The trail was still a muddy mess, but I was dry.
It's worth mentioning that due to the backcountry restrictions my daily mileage is totally up to me. I either do really short days or very long days. My plan is tondo long days. I don't want to sit around at a shelter all afternoon.
Due to the difficulty of resupply going through GSMNP, I'm carrying 6 days of food. I usually only carry 3. This was the heaviest my pack has been since I started and I definitely struggled with the additional weight. I'm also rocking out brand new shoes. It never occurred to me that they hadn't been broken in. With my feet and back on fire, I trudged uphill most of the day. I'm in with a whole new group after my zero day yesterday. I flip flopped with a married couple in their mid 50's, named Lavender and Counter. They are Americans that just returned from working in England for the last 17 years. I also hiked with Cyborg and Stealth Bomber. Cyborg gave me my trail name and I haven't seen them since. It was great to see them again, as they are a really nice couple.
Sorry for the short post. I'm exhausted and my feet hurt. Ill try to add more to the post tomorrow night. I have pictures from Fontana Dam, but can't get to them right now.
"Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can." Arthur Ashe