Miles Hiked: 10.7
Miles Left: 1944.5
Ending Location: Green Corner Rd / Standing Bear Hostel
Well it had started raining 4am and it was still raining when we woke up again. It was funny since all of the weekend hikers had gotten up at the crack of dawn and bravely hiked out into the rain safe in the knowledge that warm beds awaited them that night. All of us through hikers, (with the exception of Raven Cloud who had to put in big miles that day), slept in and dawdled as much as possible hoping against hope that the rain would stop. After a while, unwilling to take a zero day in the shelter, Owl and I both suited up in our rain gear and reluctantly headed out. After the last mail drop we received I now had my own rain pants vs Owl’s wife’s pants, a fact that is much appreciated by all. I can actually button them up now and am no longer rocking the hipster hiker look.
The first hour of hiking was brutal since my hands got so cold. The rest of me was warm and dry but I didn’t want to stop and get my gloves out in the rain. They of course were buried about as deep as possible in my pack. I reasoned that it was above freezing so frostbite wasn’t a worry and my core was protected which minimized the hypothermia chances so the best bet was to soldier on.
That turned out to be a good choice since things started to warm up after that and by noon the rain had stopped. On a side note, we passed two kids who were hiking in slippers, shorts and ponchos. I assume they were doing that to keep their main clothes dry but I can’t imagine hiking in that type of gear in that weather. It just seems like you are inviting a rescue situation.
We stopped for lunch at Davenport shelter which is remarkable for the fact that it is one of the last shelters to have a steel fence over the opening due to bear activity. Most of the other shelters used to do that too, but people would then feed the bears through the fence which only made things worse. Funny how safety mechanisms can have unintended consequences. See, I am learning work appropriate skills on the trail!
The other thing Davenport shelter is known for was that last year a ton of hikers started getting sick, (noro virus), and that was ground zero for it. We didn’t realize that fact until we sat down for lunch or we would have skipped it. As a precaution, the last couple of days Owl and I have taken to double treating our water by filtering it and then treating it with iodine. We plan on continuing this until Hot Springs since this is the section that everyone tends to get some stomach virus on even if it is less serious than Noro.
Near the end if the day we noticed a drop off box for backpacker permits and realized we were finally out of Smokey Mountain national park! While we’ll still technically be in the Smokies for a while, the hardest part of them is now behind us. Both of us are thrilled about this since when preparing for this through hike the a Smokies have always been our biggest fear. The weather can change so quickly and get so bad at this time of year that it was a gamble we took starting out as early as we did. I’m very happy we lucked out with Mother Nature and I don’t regret for a second all the extra gear, food, and planning we put into our contingency plans for if things did turn out worse than they did. Well, that may not be totally true … but we still made the right choices.
For the night we stayed at the Standing Bear hostel. It was another one of those places that was so crazy you have a hard time believing it even exists. The owner had built most of it himself so it certainly had character. Laundry involved an old fashioned hand washer and agitator board, the cabin had a river flowing under it, and the store was honor based with everyone recording their purchases on the backs of old petition envelopes. On the downside, their privy was about ten feet from the river and well where all the water is drawn from. Did I mention we’re double treating all our water?! That being said it was an enjoyable evening and all of us stayed up till nearly 10 o’clock playing cards with a pair of weekend hikers.