Note: Not enough cell coverage to upload pics. I’m planning on leaving this hostel early and uploading by I-40.
I slept hard last night – I’m pretty sure I only woke up once. The first thing I remember hearing at 7:30 when I opened my eyes was the loud, roaring wind.
I emerged from my tent and saw grey clouds overhead. The rain hadn’t started yet, but it was obviously well on its way. I broke camp in a hurry and hit the trail at 8:30.
I continued the same ridgewalk with Savage and then Canuck. The wind was howling. I kept my eyes skyward, watching for falling limbs. The trail is covered in fallen logs – some of them obviously recent.
After three quick summits, I met up with Savage and Canuck at Tri-Corner Knob Shelter 5 miles up trail. I ate quickly. The weather was getting bad and no one’s had a reliable cell signal for at least 2 days.
As I got ready to head out, Moon Boots rounded the corner – I was pretty excited. The four of us quickly set off for Cosby Knob Shelter 7 miles away. The weather was getting worse – still no heavy rain though. I quickly fell behind.
The past few days, I’ve been clocking myself while I hike, checking the time and my GPS to see distance covered. On an easy grade, I can hike almost 2.5 miles per hour – that’s admittedly tough. With a medium grade (think rolling hills), I slow to right at 2 mph – I’m fairly consistent with this pace. During steep ascents and descents, I’m right at 1.5 mph. Savage, Moon Boots and Canuck are the fastest hikers I’ve tried to keep up with – they book it at 3+ mph.
About 2 miles in, the rain started – it was light at first, then picked up. The wind stayed gusty. I hiked quickly, but still took some time to admire how much these higher elevations reminded me of the Cascades.
The steady rain persisted as I rolled into Cosby Knob Shelter at 3:45. I hiked hard averaging just over 2 mph – that’s good for me. I set up my tent in the rain and huddled near the shelter to make dinner.
As I was eating, the rain picked up. It’s a nice feeling when you’re already eating hot food when the storm finally hits. I was organizing my stuff in my tent when Medicine Man and Clutch came into camp. I finished dinner with Medicine.
A short time later, the rain stopped and the clouds parted, revealing a deep blue sky fading to sunset. What was rumored to be a raging thunderstorm turned out to be rain associated with a “high wind advisory” – this itself another weather-related camp rumor.
I’ve loved the Smokeys, but am excited to leave tomorrow. Although I’ve successfully tented each night I’ve stayed here, all hikers are forced to stay near shelters – no rouge camping (known as stealth camping) allowed. There’s been at least 30 hikers at every shelter – 10 inside and about 20 tents scattered about in odd places. I’m sleeping on a slight hill next to a drainage ditch – it’s prettier than it sounds.
Tomorrow, after I exit the Smokeys, I cross under I-40 (rumored to have a gas station nearby), and begin the steep ascent of Snowbird Mountain – there’s campsites 12 miles in and a shelter at 17. But that doesn’t matter – I can camp ANYWHERE I want starting tomorrow. I’m elated.
In all, the Smokeys have been amazing. I’ve hiked and tented in every weather scenario I can imagine aside from blizzard and heat-wave.
I’m looking forward to the next 50 miles and my arrival in Hot Springs in three days. I severely need to do laundry.
Breakfast: brown sugar Pop-Tarts
Snack: Cocoa dusted almonds
Lunch: more almonds, lots of raisins, bag of beef jerky
Dinner: the same thing I ate last night (Mac and cheese spiked with instant mashed potatoes, bacon, salmon and lots of black pepper)