Cotton candy clouds, blue ridges, sun kissed valleys, fall foliage, smoky mountains, firey sunsets…all of these super cheesy, but true descriptions have been a part of our daily grind for about 2,000 miles now. It’s crazy to think that we are closing in on this amazing and almost indescribable journey of a lifetime. But, for the here and now, we still have miles to be hiked and days to be blogged about 😊.
Day 148 – November 1 – Started the day with beautiful views at Big Firescald Knob, some of the best 360° views of mountain ranges we’ve seen since Maine. A little sad to think that we only have about 20 more days of this. The shelter has a fireplace, so we are enjoying a toasty fire, while also using its lighting for dinner, as we didn’t have much daylight left by the time we got to camp. Start time: 9am, End time: 6:10pm, Mileage Completed: 25.6, AT Mile #1889.5, Campsite: Jerry Cabin Shelter
Day 149 – November 2 – Hit 1900 miles! Sunny, almost hot day. A leisurely hike with many breaks along the way. A lot of ascending and descending. Start time: 8:20am, End time: 5:15pm, Mileage Completed: 22.1, AT Mile #1911.6, Campsite: Stealth tenting
Day 150 – November 3 – Packed up camp and left before sunrise. Got to the lovely, historic town of Hot Springs as the sun came up. The trail goes straight through the town. Went to the Smoky Mountain Diner for breakfast – It. Was. Amazing. Resupplied, then went to a hostel. A rainy day, a perfect nero day (nearly a zero) – rest, shower, laundry, blogging. A group of us from the hostel all walked to the diner together for dinner. Start time: 6:10am, End time: 7:30am, Mileage Completed: 4.8, AT Mile #1916.4, Campsite: Laughing Heart Hostel
Day 151 – November 4 – After a lazy morning we packed up our gear and got back on trail. Met two ladies section hiking, heading north – Fern Burner was super stoked to meet us, as she’d never met a thru hiker. She insisted on a picture and made me feel like a celebrity. Her enthusiasm was so encouraging! The climb up Bluff Mountain seemed to last forever. Then we climbed Walnut Mountain. All the uphill slowed us down, so we didn’t go as far as anticipated. Start time: 12:30pm, End time: 5:05pm, Mileage Completed: 13.1, AT Mile #1929.5, Campsite: Walnut Mountain Shelter
Day 152 – November 5 – New milage record and another 30 miler in the books! We got a very early start this am, due to a mouse that kept crawling through our packs in the shelter all night. Decided to just get up and start early, which was even earlier than we thought because of DST. Summited Max Patch not long after sunrise for some amazing views! Great day filled with sunshine, uphills, and views. We also entered the Great Smoky Mountain National Park! Met Spif and Little Foot at camp tonight. Start time: 5:20am, End time: 4:40pm, Mileage Completed: 30.7, AT Mile #1960.2, Campsite: Cosby Knob Shelter
Day 153 – November 6 – Today marks 5 months on the trail! A cold, wet, rainy day with dense fog – I guess that’s why they call it the Smoky Mountains. In the 6000’s in elevation and we couldn’t see a thing. Hiked down to Newfound Gap and got a hitch into Gatlinburg in the back of a pickup truck. The gentleman that gave us a ride said he’d let us sit in the cab, but the backseat was full of chicken feed 😂. I was glad the backseat was full of chicken feed, because we had the best views possible sitting in the bed of a pickup truck, driving down out of the fog, views cleared, fall colors appeared, and we can now say that we’ve seen the Smoky’s from the inside out. Checked into a hotel tonight, trying to dry everything out, all gear/us is soaked. Start time: 8am, End time: 3:15pm, Mileage Completed: 23, AT Mile #1983
Day 154 – November 7 – Zero day. Rainy morning. My Aunt Betty, who supported us our entire time at Bear Valley, drove over an hour to come see us this morning. She took us to Flap Jacks for breakfast and drove us to Food City so that we could resupply. A huge thank you to my Aunt Betty! We had a laid back, lazy afternoon. We walked around Gatlinburg and had dinner at the Mellow Mushroom. Mileage Completed: 0, AT Mile #1983, Campsite: Microtel, Gatlinburg
Day 155 – November 8 – We got a hitch back to the trail from a couple visiting the Smoky Mountains for their honeymoon. We hit 2,000 miles today, and are officially “2,000 Milers”!!! Clingman’s Dome was closed, but we had some pretty views along the trail. Walked a lot of ridgeline. Seems like we are in for a chilly night. Start time: 10:30am, End time: 4:10pm, Mileage Completed: 17.8, AT Mile #2000.8, Campsite: Derrick Knob Shelter
Day 156 – November 9 – Rainy, foggy, cold, wet day. We exited The Great Smoky Mountain National Park and crossed the Fontana Dam. Staying at the Fontana “Hilton” shelter, which is near restrooms with a shower with automatic hand dryers! It’s the little things 😊. Start time: 8:45am, End time: 4:10pm, Mileage Completed: 23.4, AT Mile #2024.2, Campsite: Fontana Dam Shelter
Day 157 – November 10 – Stopped at a marina with a small store a few miles into today’s hike for a days resupply. We weren’t able to pick up a food box at the post office in Fontana Dam as planned because of the Veterans Day holiday. Long day, a lot of steep and constant ups and downs. Got to camp barely before dark. It’s going to be a very cold night. Start time: 9:05am, End time: 5:20pm, Mileage Completed: 21.9, AT Mile #2046.1, Campsite: Sassafrass Shelter
Day 158 – November 11 – Hiked a quick 7 miles downhill to the NOC, where we did another days worth of food resupply to tie us over til town. Ate at the NOC restaurant for lunch, hungout for two hours before we got back to hiking. It was a cold morning, evening, and night. Weirdly felt like a long day, even with the NOC break. Justin got an awesome fire going tonight and Spif and Little Foot are here. Start time: 8:50am, End time: 4:25pm, Mileage Completed: 18.4, AT Mile #2064.5, Campsite: Cold Spring Shelter
With all of the desciptive cheesiness of “cotton candy clouds, blue ridges, sun kissed valleys, fall foliage, smoky mountains, firey sunsets” also comes rain clouds, foggy ridges, mud filled valleys, falling because of the foliage, climbing the mountains, and racing against the lack of sunlight. The challenges, the tough stuff, ‘the bad and the ugly’ so to speak, are just as much a part of this journey. It has given us experiences, allowed growth, and made us stronger. In Maine, we dealt with very rooty, uneven, tough terrain, and Justin pointed out that if we wished the roots away, we’d be wishing the beautiful trees, “the green tunnel” as the AT is often referred to away. Reminding myself to take in these final days with joy, rather than sadness of this beautifully wonderful trek coming to it’s end. A little over a week left to go!
Anddddd…here’s a super nerdy video of us hitting mile marker 2,000 to get rid of all of that cheesy, ooey-gooey talk: