Miles Hiked: 11 miles
Miles Left: 2064.5
Ending Location: Wayah Bald Shelter
Waking up in a nice hotel room vs. freezing temperatures in a tent was a welcome relief. Also breakfast at the hotel, while not fancy, was very nice.
Ended up spending the morning playing phone tag with several shuttlers trying to get back to the trail. Apparently it’s still to early in the season for most people, but I ended up being referred to Carol who dropped us off at the trailhead around 11:30am. Before leaving we had a chance to talk to Three Mile who said that he just checked and the Smokies should be largely free of snow when we hike them! While we’ll certainly call the ranger station for an update once we get to Fontana Dam that was very welcome news. We also said goodby to Three Mile and Little-D since they will be taking several zero days because their son will be flying in to hike with them for a bit. I think he’s in for a rude surprise with how fast his parents hike now!
It was an overcast day for most of the hike and the trail was quite muddy. Apparently there was sleet and rain all throughout the night, so once again. “Yay hotel rooms!” We passed several advertisements for the Aquone hiker lodge stapled to various trees and shelters. That wasn’t cool so we took them down and threw them out in a trash can near one of the road crossings. We also saw some graffiti for the Outdoor 76 gear shop so I’m very glad we went to Three Eagles instead.
Talking about road crossings, boy did we see a lot of them today as we were going up the various mountains. I can see why Bill Bryson said it was so discouraging to see people driving somewhere that you struggled to get up to.
A couple of day hikers had strongly recommended that we should take a 1/2 mile side trail to see the view from one of the balds. B and I almost skipped it since that was a full extra mile of hiking and quite honestly we’re almost getting jaded of all these amazing views. We ended up going to it anyway. I’m glad we did it since not only was the view great, but I didn’t want to spend the rest of the day regretting passing it up.
I’m starting to have some issues with my upper thigh. It doesn’t really hurt but it feels hot and tight when I walk. After stopping and stretching a couple of times it got better but it’s a bit disturbing to me. I guess I should be thankful that’s all I have to complain about since besides that I’m feeling great with my feet, knees, and back all holding up.
The day ended on a high note with us getting to the stone lookout tower on top of Wayah Bald. The view was jaw dropping and the tower itself was really neat. At the top of it they had plaques with outlines of all the mountains along with their names next to them. It was cool to match that with our guide books to see where we’re going. We could even see Climgman’s Dome which is the highest point on the entire AT!
We arrived at the shelter shortly after that. None of our original bubble was there. They had all either taken a zero day in town, stopped at the previous shelter, or skipped Franklin altogether and gone past us. We did meet a nice couple though we had spoken too briefly the previous day while we were attempting to get a hitch. In the real sold they worked as a nuclear physicist and a paleontologist so was neat hearing about their research. One thing that surprised me was how much the paleontologist’s work applied to modern problems. She was studying periods where there weren’t many fouling seaborne creatures, (like barnacles), and seeing what conditions might have caused that and if those conditions could be replicated in areas where things like barnacles are a real problem.