Day 12 – Monday, March 21: Winding Stair Gap to Siler Bald Shelter, 4.2 miles, 114.0 total AT miles.

Note: Bad cell reception so no pics tonight. It’s a shame too. I ended up adding a few pics to Day 9 and 10 this morning at the hotel. That might have to become the norm until cell coverage improves.

I woke up in the hotel room to the strong odor of body funk. Despite the fact we had all showered and washed our clothes, the lingering odor of four days in the woods was all I could smell.

I uploaded pictures and handled my finances over breakfast. I went back to my room and started to pack up. Last night, Kodak gave me a “gear shakedown” to help me find ways to eliminate weight by getting rid of redundant items or gear I’m not using.

I had some tough decisions to make. I already did this in Hiawassee, GA, but still felt my pack was too heavy. After careful consideration, I had to say goodbye to my Alite chair among other things. I’m thankful I did – I sent a package home that weighed nearly three pounds.

It’s kind of crazy to think about the amount of knowledge I’ve gained in this short time with regards to gear and organization. Not that I know what’s best or anything like that, just that I now know what’s necessary versus what’s helpful. For example, backup water filter (Sawyer at a few ounces) – necessary. Alite folding camp chair (at just over a pound) – helpful.

Right now my pack weights 42 pounds – that includes three liters of water and a five day food supply. And I’m satisfied with that.

I’ve also learned that organization is key. What was once a ridiculously hyper-prepared first aid kit AND an over-stuffed toiletry kit have been condensed into one bag. I can now easily throw my toiletry/first aid kit into the food bag when I hang it at night.

Fun fact: Bears are supposedly attracted to the scent of lotion, deodorant, toothpaste, etc. This means they get hung with food at night.

Savage left at 10:00 to hit the post office and then start hiking. I hung around with Kool-Aid, Kodak and Canuck while waiting for a package from Seattle to arrive. The guys left at 1:00 to head to the post office and I relaxed in the lobby of the hotel. At 2:30, I got my envelope and immediately hit the road, taking a public transit van to the trailhead.

Today’s hike only called for just over 4 miles to Siler Bald Shelter. We decided last night that we wouldn’t push it today – there’s plenty of miles in the days ahead. Plus, the temp is supposed to drop into the 20’s tonight – I’d rather be tenting in a spot with a guaranteed fire ring.

I started hiking at 4:00 and made it to camp right at 6:00. I did get a surprise when I started ascending Siler Bald. What was a few flurries in Franklin was about an inch of snow at higher elevations. While I didn’t get a chance to hike in the falling snow, it certainly was a nice treat.

 

Nearing Siler Bald.
 
After a hearty dinner, I’m already in my sleeping bag. I didn’t sleep well in the hotel and am looking forward to a good night’s rest.

I just checked my thermometer – it’s 33, 34 degrees inside my tent. Speaking of which, I need to repair my tent tomorrow. One of the zippers broke on the rainfly. It’s still water tight, I just can’t use one of the doors. As soon as I have an opportunity, it’s going back to REI.

 

Tenting in the snow at Siler Bald. I’m freezing.
 
Over these next three days, I need to cover about 15 miles per day to reach Fontana Dam – the gateway to the Smokeys. This morning, I paid for my thru-hiking permit to gain entry to the Smokeys. Due to bears and the sheer volume of folks hiking and camping, the Smokies have some very strict guidelines – one of them being you must sleep inside a shelter, if possible.

This troubles me. I haven’t slept in a shelter for a few reasons – I enjoy the illusion of privacy my tent affords. Plus I can stay up late and write. I don’t have to worry about mice or snoring and so on.

There’s that, plus there’s been a norovirus outbreak among hikers in NC, so bad that the shelter rules have been relaxed in the Smokeys (according to rumor, so who knows).

I’m glad to be back on the trail. Going to town is nice, but it’s stressful. I’ve yet to stay in a hotel in a central location – Kool-Aid and I ended up walking four miles round-trip just to go to the outfitter and Walgreens. Throw in a couple trips to Ingles and we essentially spent our off-day doing a little urban hiking.

I’ve got (another) new water system. It’s pretty slick – I’ll try to take some photos of it.

Breakfast: blueberry waffle, OJ, coffee
Lunch: half a chicken sandwich from last night
Snack: almonds and beef jerky
Dinner: pasta with chicken gravy, salmon and bacon. I’ll admit, it sounds like a dog food flavor, but it was pretty tasty.

Author: Chris Kummer

Hey y'all - Cool Dad here. Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to thru-hike the AT. It remained a nagging thought for nearly a decade - then it got loud enough to warrant my attention. So I quit my unfulfilling job(s) in Seattle and commenced hiking north from Springer in the spring of 2016. And I'm exceedingly thankful I did. The people I met, the things I saw, the gross foods I ate - not a day goes by without fondly remembering life on the trail. If you've already thru-hiked a long trail, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you're thinking about tackling a long-distance hike, do it. Do it now. I'm probably gonna do it again...

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