Week 3 on the AT: The Smoky Mountains

Weekly Mileage

Our feet took us 96.4 miles this week

Video of the Week

Highlights

Clingman's Dome- the highest point on the entire AT! 

Clingman's Dome- the highest point on the entire AT! 

Newfound Gap

Newfound Gap

Beautiful Smoky Mountains! 

Beautiful Smoky Mountains! 

Max Patch shortly before an insane thunderstorm

Max Patch shortly before an insane thunderstorm

Trail Magic

When someone surprises you with kindness on the trail- usually in the form of food or beer

For some reason, we thought we had less days to hike before our re-supply in Hot Springs than we actually did. We were running low on snacks in the Smokies when we stumbled across a group of weekend hikers. They were middle aged and the Smokies got the best of them. They decided to end their backpacking trip a day early and gave us all their food for their extra day! Including a Snickers bar!! We were shocked they were willing to give us such a valuable item, but it was amazing and we were so grateful!

We committed to a big push day to get out of the Smokies. After 20 miles, we were pretty grumpy. We made it out alive, but we were dragging. We finally stumbled across The Standing Bear, the most chill farm/hostel I've ever experienced. We drank five beers and ate a large pizza in like 20 minutes before hiking on (bad decisions- see bummer below). But it was a magical slice of hippie heaven and it was amazing.

Trail Angel

A generous soul who helps a hiker in need

We were absolutely blessed with the most amazing trail angels, Mr. and Mrs. Schwartz. They met us at Newfound Gap, the mid point in the Smokies, and took us to their Tennessee home for ice cream, showers, Thai food, laundry, and a snuggly clean bed! It was perfect. Mrs. Schwartz is also a bad ass hiker! She hiked all 900 miles of the Smoky Mountains! She had the most hilarious hiking stories and I hope to be as legendary as she is when I'm her age. 

Blurry picture but had to include it- so much love for this family! 

Blurry picture but had to include it- so much love for this family! 

Trail Names

A wilderness name- way more fun than nerd names

Karma: This Jersey girl decided to hike the AT over a year ago and worked on her "trail karma" by giving out trail magic in New Jersey last summer before she embarked on her own journey. Her first day on the trail, she was super anxious and got talking to a ridge runner. It didn't take long for her to realize that she had given that ridge runner a ride into town less than a year earlier when she was thru-hiker. What an amazing coincidence! It was such perfect karma- hence her trail name. 

Other characters:  Giant, Captain Rum, Deuces, McLovin, Calorie, Pickle

Bummers

The inevitable, devastating, yet retrospectively hilarious moments on the trail

Hiking into the Smokies was rough. It was made a little more tough by an actual monsoon. I'm not kidding we needed goggles to see. There was a moment we thought it was acid rain. The trail turned into a legit river. Our shoes were the most wet and everything on our bodies was soggy- including our attitudes. Oh my god I want to stop hiking. If I stop I think I'll die of hypothermia. Think good thoughts. What would a real mountain woman think? The forest needs this water, this is good. No, I can't, this fucking* sucks. We made it to the first shelter in the Smokies absolutely freezing. Fortunately, some hikers had gotten a nice fire started and we decided to post up for the night to let our shoes and clothes dry by the fire. Call me dramatic, but I don't know if we'd have made it without the warm fire and dry place to sleep.

We were ready to leave the Smokies. They were gorgeous, but they also kicked our ass every day. Our last day out was a serious push day. We were basically running down the mountain to civilization. I jabbed my trekking pole into the side of the trail and I'm not kidding, a fucking anaconda jumped out. I shrieked and booked it. Danielle, who was ahead, was like "What happened??" And I pushed her and was like "FUCKING RUN THIS IS NOT A DRILL". I swear the snake was at least 6 feet long and as wide as my forearm. I now know the meaning of being "scared shitless" and life will never be the same. I get anxious with every hole, rock, leaf pile I see. I've started thinking every stick is a snake and freak out a bit. I need to wear my contacts more, I think.

Last bummer: You'd think after last week I would have learned to not drink and hike. Well, I haven't. After hanging out at the Standing Bear hostel recovering from the Smokies and my near-death snake experience, I was solidly drunk. My competitive side convinced me that we should push on a few more miles, and we did. Had we known those "few" miles were actually a mountain, we might have reconsidered. We powered through and stumbled into camp a few hours later. It was miserable. Next time, I'll learn. 

*Sorry, Mom. I know you cringe every time I swear in the internet but I feel it's warranted in this section.