Spence Field Shelter(182.7) to Double Spring Gap Shelter(196.5) 13.8
Here a some pictures from Fontana Dam yesterday
Today started off with beautiful weather. I couldn't believe my luck. It's the first time in 5 days that it wasn't raining. I got up early and enjoyed a hot cup of coffee and some oatmeal. I was packed up and on the trail by 8:30. Today was difficult. Lots of steep climbs and descents.
The first climb took me to Rocky Top. Chris Stapleton, this is the mountain that inspired the fight song for the Tennessee Volunteers. I spent the day crossing between NC and TN, although TN wasn't officially marked anywhere, it was cool to hit another state. Rocky Top was a difficult climb. Every time I thought I was at the top, it kept going up.
Views From Rocky Top
I spent most of the day hiking by myself. The terrain was so rugged it spread everybody out. I made pretty good time for the first half of the day, the second half was more difficult. The trail is still really muddy, so I spent all afternoon hopping around mud puddles.
I've gotten into a routine of stopping every 2 hours and eating some kind of a bar, usually snickers, then cliff, followed by a pop tart. It helps keep my energy up and I don't have to stop. I ate lunch, 2 tuna fish packets, at a shelter where I filtered water. The shelter was located at mile 189.2, that means I only have 2,000 miles left to walk. Tomorrow I'll hit the 200 mile mark as I summit the highest point on the AT, Clingman's Dome. It looks like I'll be a soaking wet mess, as the rain should continue through the night and most of the day tomorrow.
I passed by a shelter at 3:45 and decided not to stay because it was too early and the next shelter was only 1.7 miles down the trail. There were very dark clouds in the sky and it looked very ominous. I decided to play russian rain roulette. I lost. 3 minutes after I left the shelter the rain began. I'm at 5,500 feet of elevation and walking on an exposed ridgeline. Not my brightest idea. As I ran to get to the shelter I totally forgot about the mud, the end result was a very wet and sloppy fall to the ground, that I would repeat 20 steps later. Soaking wet, I finally made it to the shelter. I was actually happy to find it not quite full. I wasn't looking forward to sleeping in it, but I knew I would get dry and stay warm. I cooked an early dinner of Mac and Cheese with Vienna sausages and Franks hot sauce. Not my greatest culinary masterpiece, but by trail standards a delectable treat. Cyborg was kind enough to go out in the rain and fetch my water. I think he felt sorry for me because I was so wet and muddy. I staked out my space in the shelter and put on all of my dry clothes. After I finished my camp chores, I chatted with 2 SOBO guys. They started in Maine in July, took a break in December and January. They should finish their thru hike in 2 weeks. Wow, I was impressed to hear their stories. Around 8:00, 3 overnight hikers showed up, since I was the last thru-hiker to get to the shelter I had to give up my spot. It was still pouring down rain and I had to go out in it to set up my hammock. I think I'll be glad to finish the Smokies. I haven't cared for all the restrictions. I like to stop whenever I want, having to push extra miles to stay at shelters that I get kicked out of isn't very much fun. The views this morning were spectacular, it almost, makes it worthwhile.
I'm hoping the rain forcast for tomorrow is incorrect. I'm tired of the mud and I really want to see the views from Clingman's Dome. I'll just have to wait and see what tomorrow brings. Trail life is full of ups and downs, both elevation wise and emotionally. This morning I was loving life, I was surrounded by immense beauty. Tonight I was sent out into the rain to set up my shelter, but I'm still not too down. I had a few visitors come and watch me set up.
"My most memorable hikes can be classified as 'Shortcuts that Backfired'."
Edward Abbey, The Journey Home: Some Words in Defense of the American West