Monthly Archives: March 2014

Day 34: Hot Springs NC

Miles Hiked: 13.1
Miles Left: 1911.4
Ending Location: Hostel at Laughing Heart Lodge, Hot Springs NC

Both Owl and I had been hearing about Hot Springs for a while. It’s known as a hiker friendly town and more importantly it has actual hot springs! One former through hiker said that the key was to pick up a six pack, sit in the springs for an hour and when you get out it feels like you’ve been deboned. Since Gatlinberg was the last place we did laundry and we only had a questionable shower at Standing Bear, that sounded wonderful!

That’s a longer way to say both Owl and I were more than prepared to do a long mileage day to make it into town. The hike itself was fairly uneventful. We did run into some trail maintainers who were lugging a bunch of equipment up the hill. Not only did they make us feel like wimps with our nice backpacks, (Owl said when he finishes the trail he’s going to look into better carrying solutions for tools and donate them to these volunteer groups), but they also stumped us with a question about where the destroyed part of the trail was? We’ve gotten so used to climbing over trees or making our way through washed out sections that they are no longer memorable to us.

From a distance Hot Springs looks like a one horse town and that impression doesn’t change as you get closer to it. The trail runs right through Main Street and there’s no stop lights to worry about. Everyone had recommended Laughing Heart Hostel which is the first building you pass as you enter Hot Springs but after being burned by the last two popular hiker destinations we decided to walk through the town and see what other options were available. After checking them out, (not bad but they all had minuses like lack of wifi), we went back and got a room at Laughing Heart.

That turned out to be one of our better ideas. Laughing Heart is run by former through hikers Chuck Norris and Tigger. Chuck looked just like his namesake and had to be one of the must chill and happy individuals I’ve ever met. He also took a lot of pride in the hostel as the place was clean and he managed all the drama that a bunk room full of through hikers can bring. This was by far my favorite place we’ve stayed at yet and that includes the Holiday Inn in Hiawasee.

Both Owl and I grabbed the fried chicken special at the Smokey Mountain Diner. For $8 you were served fried chicken, baked potato, a huge slice of cornbread, and best of all, grilled asparagus! I had just been talking about how that was one of the random foods I had been missing.

The town pretty much shuts down at five so after dinner Owl and I retreated back to the hostel where I spent some time updating my journal in the very nice common area while watching Frankenfish with a couple of the other hikers. Throughout the night hikers continued to come in from the trail so I’d direct them to Chuck. It’s officially the start of AT season with several hundred hikers on the trail behind us so we’re now, (briefly), seeing the fastest ones as they pass us. Several of the later arrivals had pulled 30+ mile days to be there. I can’t even imagine doing that yet. I’m still impressed by finishing 13!

a warmer shelter we stopped by for lunch20140326-101253.jpg

Day 33: In which a rustic experience is had

Miles Hiked: 13.1
Miles Left: 1924.5
Ending Location: Walnut Mountain Shelter

The weather cleared up over the night and today was perfect hiking weather. That was good since we planned to make big miles.

For everyone reading this entry before hiking this section of the trail, the “ups” between Walnut shelter and the next one are much more brutal than the ones before it. What I’m trying to say is Owl and I made a very good decision on taking a short day and stopping at Walnut vs. pressing on.

The big landmark today was Max Patch, which is a series of hills that used to have cattle grazing on them but are now maintained as a park. On top of it you have a 360 view of the surrounding countryside and it was very picturesque. This was also the first time I could see how the Smokies earned their name as the clouds rolling off them made them look like they were on fire. Owl and I had the foresight to eat lunch partway up Max Patch since we heard it can get crazy windy and cold at the top. Oh, and spoiler alert, but we talked to a couple of hikers several days later who camped on it to enjoy the sunset/sunrise. They all regretted their decision since their tents were battered by the wind and the morning fog rolled in and completely soaked everything. There is a campsite in the tree-line about a half mile past the summit I’d recommend camping at instead if you want to see sunrise up there.

We briefly stopped by Roaring Fork shelter to check out the log book and ran into the Iowa State outdoor club who were enjoying their spring break. They originally wanted to hike the Smokies but their group was too large so they were doing this section of trail instead. I have to say they were the most organized of all the spring break groups we’ve seen so far, and their student guides really seemed to have their act together. They did jump a bit though when a couple of students asked to see the first aid kit, and said “don’t worry as it’s not serious at all” in a tone if voice that implied someone had a sucking chest wound caused by doing something they had been specifically warned not to do.

While at the shelter we also ran into some trail magic as a couple hikers had left several Mountain House dehydrated meals behind. Normally I hate it when people leave food at the shelters since it attracts animals and turns disgusting fairly quickly. It’s much better to offer food to hikers and if no one accepts, pack it out. In this case though it was much appreciated.

We ended our day at Walnut Mountain shelter. While the hike today had its fair share of wind, that shelter stood out as it was on top of the mountain facing directly into the wind so that it created a mini vortex inside. It wasn’t that cold but it was so windy that it felt like it was freezing. My clothes and jacket luckily offered good wind protection but Owl in his shorts was shivering almost immediately. This had to have been the only time in our many years of friendship where I was warm and he was cold. Usually I’ve always been the roommate who was cranking up the thermostat.

Beyond the wind, the shelter was missing floorboards and quite small. Luckily burrowing into my sleeping bag I was warm and there were only two other hikers there, Blaze and Socks, who we met for the first time. One nasty surprise the next morning was that condensation would form on the metal roof and randomly drip on you like some sadistic Chinese water torture alarm clock. Basically this was the worst shelter we’ve encountered so far. We later learned though that it was also the oldest shelter on the AT and is considered a historic landmark which is why volunteers can’t improve it. So armed with that piece of knowledge I now look back at it as charming rustic little shelter with it’s fair share of quirks.

A very cold windy shelter20140326-095530.jpg

Max Patch20140326-100406.jpg

You can tell this bridge is safe because it has handrails20140326-100544.jpg

Day 32: Back to the “normal” AT

Miles Hiked: 6.9
Miles Left: 1937.6
Ending Location: Groundhog Creek Shelter

Owl and I ended up bunking with Diesel and Dundee in the cabin over the river. It was pretty neat until we tried to sleep as the over active heating system combined with the rapid cooling of the river left us either in a state of sweltering or freezing the entire night. Also there was a mountain lion in the area, (one of the locals caught it on their game camera and dogs/cats/chickens have been disappearing recently), which was knowledge I wish I didn’t have when getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom outside.

The lack of sleep combined with a steady downpour left us with low spirits in the morning. The caretaker Rocketman recommended we try and pull a 15+ mile day saying that while it was all “up” it was gradual but Owl and I agreed there was no way that was happening so we set our sights on a closer shelter.

On our initial assent we ran across a pair of rain pants lying in the mud. We later found out they were Raven Clouds, but at the time not knowing who’s they were or if we’d run into them we moved them to a branch on the side of the trail as neither of us wanted to deal with the weight or the mess they would cause. Sorry Raven Cloud!

The rain eventually tapered off, but it remained foggy and muddy the entire day. The highlight of the hike was seeing the FAA aviation aid tower on top of Bluebird mountain. It was a big radio array that had transmitters all around the main one that modify the signal enough that planes can tell where they are in relation to it. It was a neat looking system and Owl and I speculated that MITRE almost certainly had a hand in designing it.

While both of us would like to get back to camping, the prospect of setting up in the mud and being rained on weren’t too appealing so we decided to stay in the shelter instead. The shelter itself was soaked which was disconcerting but we speculated that was due to the humidity and fog.

Wow, re-reading the above it sounds like today was horrible but it wasn’t that bad once we got moving. That’s what we aim for on the trail: “Not horrible”.

Later in the evening Journeyman joined us at the shelter. This was the first we met him and he had some interesting stories. He had started hiking in January and gotten off the trail due to injury so now he was back at it. We certainly appreciated the company since our earlier conversations had centered around which one of us the bears would eat first.




Day 31: Leaving Smokey Mountain National Park

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.








Day 30: Plane Crashes, Kilts, and Wild Bear Sightings

Miles Hiked; 12.9
Miles Left: 1955.2
Ending Location: Cosby Knob Shelter

It was a surprisingly warm morning, made warmer by the fact that the Coke engineers had risen early and built a fire again to take the bite out of the air. Let me tell you, Coke should sponsor their trip and plaster Power-aid logos all over their clothes!

The day started out icy but soon turned to mud and slush as things warmed up. Owl and I spent half the day cursing how much it hurt to step on rocks in our micro spikes until we wised up and took them off since there wasn’t enough ice to make it worth it. The way the trail changes from section to section, one side being covered in snow and the other dry, still hasn’t stopped amazing me.

At one point in the trail we ran across an old plane crash. It’s nothing recent; It looks like it’s from the Vietnam war era, and there’s not much left, but it was still interesting to check out. I really need to look up the history of that once I get internet access.

Less than a mile from the shelter Owl’s foot started to feel weird and I’m very proud to report we stopped then and there to check it out vs forging on the rest if the way. Don’t worry, the pressure from wearing micro spikes had irritated part of his foot but now that he’s not wearing them everything went back to normal.

Other then that, the hike was fairly uneventful. The shelter was much livelier. A father and his son were there, both wearing kilts and enjoying the hike. They offered us sausages which led to all sorts of inappropriate jokes. Side note, they also had Haggis, but neither one was Scottish. Go figure. The dad was an orthopedic surgeon so we asked him what was the best way for people like us to avoid meeting people like him in a more professional setting. He replied “Probably not through hiking”, but then added the people who really run into problems are the ones that don’t get off the couch.

The big news was that there were notices posted around the shelter warning us that bears had been recently raiding it and had stolen packs that had been hanging on the hooks by where campers sleep. I can think of few things more terrifying than a bear busting in there and doing that. For our own safety we were advised to hang our bags on the bear cables outside. I assume the reasoning being that the bears would leave us alone then vs that they would simply eat one of us campers instead now that our bags were inaccessible…

Almost all of us decided to follow that advice and bundled up our bags as best as possible against the elements and then hung them outside. Around 4am it started to rain real hard so there was a huge bustle as everyone tried to get dressed and outside as fast as possible to take down our packs and bring them under cover. At that point bears were a more abstract fear than having to hike the next couple of days with a soggy bag.




Day 29: Escape from Gatlinberg

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!




Day 28: Stranded in Gatlinberg

Miles Hiked: 0
Miles Left: Still 1978.5
Ending Location: Newfound Gap, US 441, and staying at the Bearskin Lodge on Gatlinburg TN

Remember when I said earlier that newfound gap road can be closed due to inclement weather? Well guess what…

Most of the morning was spent refreshing the Twitter feed of the Smokey Mountain ranger staton to see if the road conditions had changed. Finally around 11 Owl and I decided we might as well spend another day in Gatlinberg. We had to change rooms though so Wiki graciously let us store our bags in his room until ours was ready. While there we ran into the rest of the crew and caught up on everything that happened the night before. Apparently one of the group, (name withheld), may have had a bit to much to drink so he went into the hallway to grab a soda from the machine. Only, he couldn’t pay for it because he left his wallet in his room … along with his shirt, pants, and boxers! Since he was locked out he then had to go down to the front desk, bare naked, and ask them to let him into his room. The fact that the hotel staff took this in stride should tell you what sort of town Gatlinberg is.

When getting our room we found out that free tickets to the different Ripley’s Believe It or Not attractions were included. Since we “technically” had two rooms we were able to obtain two tickets. Both Owl and I agreed that the aquarium sounded like the best bet so we headed down Gatlinberg’s crazy Main Street with that as our destination. Along the way we may have stopped at the local moonshine distillery and tried some free samples.

Let me tell you, for profit aquariums are awesome, and that’s not just the grain alcohol talking! Rather than trying to teach “science”, or playing an “environmental” role, they pretty much just focused on the sharks, penguins, and other crazy looking critters. The best part was they had a moving walkway that took you under the big shark tanks while ominous music was playing in the background. All in all, the whole thing was tons of fun and totally worth the price of free that we paid.

We were getting tired of burgers so that night we decided to take a risk and try Bubba Gump’s Shrimp house. It’s a chain and owned by the same company that does the Rainforest Cafe, but neither of us had gone to it before and it sounded fun. That was a good decision since they had some of the best shrimp I’ve had in years and everything about the place was so cheesy that it turned into a blast. On a side note, Owl saved me as I almost left my credit card there. I can’t even imagine how much of a pain it would have been if that had happened!

The prospect of hiking 10 miles out of Newfound Gap the next morning moderated our desire to go out drinking so we retired back to our hotel room afterwards where I almost got caught up on my blog entries. Gatlinberg has been a fun place to visit, but I was very glad this was the end our stay. I really want to start making northerly progress again.

Free Moonshine tasting. What could possibly go wrong?20140314-020038.jpg






It’s a little known fact that piranhas are a major threat on the Appalachian Trail 20140314-020237.jpg

What are all these penguins doing here? Did we miss a white blaze somewhere?!20140314-020249.jpg

Editor note: State of the Blog

Hey all,
The number of people reading this Journal and the responses I’ve gotten have really blown me away. So first of all “Thank You!!”

With family, friends, coworkers, and fellow hikers reading this I felt it might be worthwhile to devote a post to talk specifically about what it is like to blog on the trail.

First of all, it should come as no surprise that most of the entries are usually written a day or two after the day in question. I like staying on top of things but whenever I sleep in a shelter vs tenting I always fall behind. Usually the next day I’ll tent and spend an hour or two after sunset getting caught up but even then that’s not a sure thing. For example, In the Smokies where we have to stay in shelters I’ve gotten woefully behind. Usually when I start falling behind I’ll write a short “stub” entry containing a title along with my miles and ending location for the day. So when you see that, consider it a preview ;p

All my entries are written on my IPhone using the WordPress app. This allows me to compose entries offline which is a necessity considering my cellphone coverage. AT&T is not glorious in the mountains. When I do have signal I’ll then upload everything. So far it’s worked our pretty well and the lack of a real keyboard has proven much less annoying than I expected. The main pain in the butt has been autocorrect and special characters. Autocorrect should be fairly self explanatory and on the plus side provides some plausible deniability for sloppy writing on my part. The special characters are annoying purely from a formatting standpoint. For example, I’ll often accidentally inset spaces after apostrophes such as “won’ t”. #Nitpicky #IKnow

The main problem with the WordPress App is dealing with comments. For whatever reason the comment aspect of it is much more finicky in low signal environments so I usually don’t see comments until I get back to civilization. At that point I’m running around trying to get my act together or hanging out and enjoying being clean, so replies tend to range between late and non-existent. I apologize for that and I want everyone to know I appreciate all your comments!

Pictures and videos on the other hand are a real bear. If I don’t have wifi my chances if successfully uploading anything is iffy so I’m way behind on posting them. My plan is to eventually label the pictures as well but who knows when I’ll get around to that? Basically this is a living journal so you may see pictures posted a week or more after the original entry goes up.

Also some people, (my parents for one), may have noticed I stopped updating my SPOT location. Long story short, my headlamp batteries died so I had to cannibalize the SPOT’s batteries so I could move around in the dark. I have new batteries so I’ll start updating again shortly.

From a writing perspective I’m still trying to find my voice. I know my coworkers must be shocked that I haven’t included any lolcat pictures so far and my friends are scratching their heads at the lack of hashtags and emoticons. I certainly hope my writing style will evolve as this goes on so we’ll see what works. I also struggle with what to record. “It was a moderate day but Jacob’s Ladder just about did me in with the continuous steep incline” is boring to anyone sitting at home, but it’s a nice reminder to me, (seriously that section was a beast), and it might be helpful to hikers coming after me.

The only other thing I’d like to say is it’s hard to balance having experiences and blogging about them. I always feel antisocial when I’m typing on my phone while everyone else is hanging out. I also noticed today at the aquarium, (more about that later), that I was spending more time trying to get a picture or thinking about what to write than actually enjoying the moment. I need to work on that.

In conclusion thank you everyone for reading this and all the encouragement you have given me! Now it’s time for bed before I (hopefully) hit the trail tomorrow.

An awesome map my coworkers are keeping of my progress while I’m on the trail. You all rule!20140314-012031.jpg

Day 27: Zero Day in Gatlinberg

Miles Hiked: 0
Miles Left: Still 1978.5
Ending Location: Newfound Gap, US 441, and staying at the Bearskin Lodge on Gatlinburg TN

Considering we were completely unproductive the previous night Owl and I decided to zero in Gatlinberg. The hotel had a very good complimentary breakfast, (Remember, do not stay at the Grand Prix), and I ended up spending the morning catching up on email now that cell signal and wifi were both available..

Since we had paid for a room at the Grand Prix we went over there to do laundry which turned into a three hour affair. One if the driers was broken and didn’t heat up, the owner knew it, and he still charged us another $1.50 to actually dry our clothes after the problem had been fixed. It’s not the money but the general attitude…

The rest of the day was much better. Owl and I grabbed lunch, I made a few phone calls, and then we went shopping for supplies. There was a satellite branch of the NOC in town which was better than expected. As Wiki commented, “Aren’t the spin off stores supposed to be smaller then the main one?” This NOC was much more hiker focused as well but it was mostly wasted on me as the only things I ended up buying were a new pair of socks and some supplements to add to my water, (basically powdered Gatoraid). Both of us were doing good on food since we originally didn’t even know if we would make it into Gatlinberg since Newfound Gap can often be closed due to bad weather, (insert ominous foreshadowing here). The best thing about the NOC though was that they had a climbing wall right in the store! When I asked the clerk about it they asked if I wanted to try so of course I said “Hell Yah!” When the question of which path to choose was raised, Owl piped up that anyone named Scrambles should always try the hardest one. That seemed to make sense at the time so up I went. Near the top there was one part with an overhang that I got completely stuck at so I eventually had to give up about three feet from my goal. It was still a respectable showing. I have been noticing myself loosing upper body strength lately but I just can’t bring myself to do additional workouts when on the trail. That will just have to be something I remedy when I finish this hike.

Dinner was once again at the Brewery, this time with more people as most of the rest I our bubble had rolled into town. It was a good night as we all joked around and traded stories. It’s funny how most of what we focus on involves the ins and outs of the human digestive system. For example Sunshine has a hilarious story about a six inch privy hole she dug and a frog that you absolutely have to hear her tell. It still amazes me how just about every day we all seem to gain new memorable experiences.



Day 26: Clingman’s Dome!

Miles Hiked: 10.8
Miles Left: 1978.5
Ending Location: Newfound Gap, US 441, and staying at the Bearskin Lodge on Gatlinburg TN

Owl, Dundee and I got a late start today. The before mentioned blueberry pancakes may have had something to do with it. It was an absolutely gorgeous day and all three of us were excited to climb Clingman’s Dome since we knew the view on top was going to be spectacular. Some of the other through hikers had gotten up at six, (their original plan was 4), to attempt to see sunrise on top of it but, well you should know by now there was no way that was going to happen for me.

The climb itself was surprising easy as the trail was well maintained and the grade was gradual with multiple switchbacks. I have to admit, after hearing and thinking about Clingmans for so long it was a bit … anticlimactic. The peak of Clingman’s is topped with a very distinctive observation tower that has a spiraling handicapped accessible ramp leading up to it. The reason for it was that due to the local weather patters the peak isn’t above treeline. That may change soon as a large number of the trees were dead, killed by either acid rain or invasive bugs. It’s not a good time to be a hemlock in the South.

The view did not disappoint though. My favorite part was seeing Fontana dam. It’s amazing how far we’ve traveled in a couple of days. Wow was it windy though. On the top we met Jay who had driven all the way from Nashville to do that hike. He wanted a picture of all us through hikers and at the base of the tower offered us a ride into town. On the way down we hit our first serious ice patches of the trip, (excluding our exclusions to Waffle House at the start). Owl and I were both happy we had our micro spikes but unfortunately only patches of the trail were icy. While overall that was good, it’s a pain to walk on rocks while wearing spikes!

The last couple of miles seemed to take forever which was a feeling that everyone else I talked to afterwards also shared. Dundee and Jay both had hiked ahead of us but they waited in the parking lot along with another through hiker Max Buckeye, so all five of us plus packs jammed into his Prius. Toyota should totally use us in a commercial.

Once in town we wanted to buy Jay a beer so we quickly checked into our hotel, the “Gran Prix”, and headed over to the Smokey Mountain brewery. Two beers later, (in our defense they were 32 oz each), we abandoned all ideas of doing laundry that night and instead decided to wander around downtown Gatlinberg. I knew it was a tourist town but I was not prepared for what I saw. I’d describe it as the Estes State Park of the South, only “more” so.

Coming back to our room we discovered what a dive we were staying in. The sheets were dirty, (as they had leaves in them), there were bugs everywhere, the toilet leaked, and what really got me was, (and I apologize as this is gross), there was corn floating in the toilet. We had picked the hotel as it was the only place with on site laundry and it was listed as “hiker friendly” in our guidebook, but for anyone else reading this journal “Do Not Stay There!” I can deal with run down, but the owner was a real piece of work too as I could waste a lot of time detailing our interactions with him. Moving ahead though Owl and I decided to check into the Bearskin Lodge across the way instead since it was quite nice and the off season rate was only five more dollars a night. That was a good decision as we were able to get a good night’s sleep without having to worry about bedbugs.