Miles Hiked: 10.4
Miles Left: 1968.1
Ending Location: Pecks Corner Shelter
Shortly after 9:00am Newfound Gap road was opened and Owl, Mex Buckeye, Dundee, Diesel, and I were back on the trail. Our shuttle drivers were a husband/wife team from “Walk In The Woods” who normally do guided tours of the Smokies. I learned more about the park in that 20 minute car ride than in all the time I’ve been hiking there. For example I didn’t realize that the Smokies are the most bio diverse park in North America, or the explanation that all the bear poo we’ve been seeing is because they gum themselves up with hair and fibrous material before they hibernate and … Well this stuff is really interesting when you are out here!
I’m actually very happy we were delayed because it was one of the most beautiful mornings we’ve had yet. Everything was covered in snow and it was a crystal clear day. With the contrast between the white and the shadows, the mountains just popped when you looked at them. Also the hike itself was much more scenic than our previous couple of days in the Smokies. I’ll admit, while there’s been some nice views I had thought the Smokies were overrated as a whole until today. Most of our hike was on ridge-lines and there was one spot in particular, Charlie’s Bunion, which was totally worth putting up with the freezing cold wind and mild hypothermia to see. While standing on it we met a local who had been coming up there for the last 40 years who pointed out the different mountains and valleys for us.
Today was certainly a day for micro spikes. Owl and I may have spent an inordinate amount of time congratulating ourselves on our foresight to lug these things 200 miles just for this moment. It was ironic then that the one fall I took today was due to them getting caught in a tree branch I was stepping over. Luckily no damage to anything but my pride.
The shelter that night was mostly full but everyone made space for us. Diesel and Dundee had packed up moonshine from Gatlinburg, and a group of senior engineers from Coke had built a respectable fire in the shelter’s fireplace so it was a pleasant evening. I never thought much of Coke as a company but those engineers really impressed me. Not only were they all out doing this together and having a great time, but also that was the first successfully lit fire I’ve seen someone set up in one of those fireplaces!