So it's been quite a while since we have been in a town with legitimate computer access. So here is the nutshell version:
Franklin, NC was such a cute town but Ron Haven, who owns 3 of the lodging businesses there, is a total slime-ball and charged us $10 per person on our room rates for the "free" Friday night dinner. I have other reasons as well, but that is not the point of this blog, but if you make it to Franklin, DO NOT stay at Budgett Inn, Sapphire Inn, or Franklin Motel. If I forgot to mention it in the last post, we hitched rides a couple of times in town, once in the back of a pickup truck (not sure why that is legal) and once in the back of the Macon County Sherrif's car. We love hitching!
Right...so we headed out of Franklin Saturday night and missed the flop of a Hiker Bash (drinking party) by retreating into the woods. A few glorious days later brought us through the Nantahala Outdoor Center where we stayed in a bunkhouse during the most intense lightning storm I have ever witnessed. We also got a mail drop from Gram Cracker with all sorts of fun goodies, as well as home-made cookies from my mom! THANK YOU! More hiking brought us to Fontana Dam where we did a quick resupply, hiked over the Dam (second largest to Hoover!) and entered the Great Smoky Mountain National Park!
The Smokies are an incredibly gorgeous place with wonderfully diverse terrain. Most of the elevations are between 5 and 6,000 feet, affording excellent views of western NC and eastern TN. Terrains varied from White Mountain-style spruce forests, to grassy balds, to beautifully unique deciduous forests with lush undergrowth. It is also the home to Clingman's Dome, the highest point on the AT at 6,643 feet! A road leads to within a half mile of the summit, to which we arrived on a Saturday afternoon...tourist central. We sat on a stone bench as people passes, offering us strange looks as we devoured our lunches. This was also where we had our first taste of socially-acceptable-vagrant celebrity attack. We spent at least an hour talking to different groups of people about our hike, answering the standard questions with excitement and some amusement: "When did you start?; How much does your pack weigh?; How long will it take you?; Have you seen any bears yet (sadly, we have not), etc. etc". We met a great family up on the lookout tower who are hoping to hike at least 30 days or so of the trail within the next few years. We shared our stories, advice, and words of encouragement with them. They parted with the promise to buy our pancakes in Gatlinburg, TN if we should run into them down there at the Pancake Pantry. Later that day we hitched a ride into town with a couple around 60 in their red Mustang convertable. It was a tight squeeze but I'm sure it helped keep our smell at bay! Sure enough the next morning in town at the Pancake Pantry, we ran into the family from Clingman's who held true to their promise and provided us with excellent Trail Magic by buying us our amazing breakfasts! Thanks Jesse and family!!!
So more on the Smokies, if you don't know, the Smokies are infamous for crazy weather, especially this time of year...rain, cold, and snow. Somehow we had perfect weather every day until our last day in the park where we spent it freezing in a shelter, cowering from the rain. Otherwise, quite a lucky streak!
After the cold, rainy day, we have had great weather again so far. We made it here to town yesterday, in Hot Spring, NC for our first zero day. We hiked 19 miles from Max Patch, a bald (grass covered mountain) with an elevation of 4,629.
We had camped on the bald, which is one of the most coveted camping spots on the whole trail, conditional on Mother Nature's current mood. We totally lucked out and just had some cold winds at night, but were able to enjoy 360-degree views and an inredible sunset with our dear trail friends Who Knows and Lady Pants.
Now we are in Hot Springs enjoying our first ZERO DAY!!!! YESSSS! We stayed at Iron Horse Station on a whim last night...$45/room for the best beds and showers we have had yet. Thanks Iron Horse for the AMAZING stay. Tonight we are in some cute cottages down the street. Of course we (w/ Lady Pants and Who Knows) stuffed our faces with a total of 7 appetizers and 4 entrees. This morning we had some big breakfasts at the Smoky Mt Diner w/ Red Squirrel and Hatchet
Injuries: Joints are feeling much better after changing shoes in Franklin and getting some inserts with mega arch support. Knee is better with the help of the brace sent from Cap! Thanks Cap! We both are just struggling with blisters, but whatever, it's what we signed up for!
Weather: Amazing. We have only had a few total days of rain so far and the hotter days usually bring some nice breezes.
Mileage: Oh man, we are at 271.8. So crazy, over 10% done.
Things we are looking foreward to: Teri, Jetpack's mom, will be coming down to visit us in a month!!!! Courtney, Jetpack's lovely little sister, may be accompanying her!
Morale: Way high. This trip has been everything I have dreamed that it would be, and more. The people with whom we have become good friends are just fantastic and keep us laughing and enjoying every night at camp. The views are incredible and it is such a gift to be able to see sunrises and sunsets, babbling brooks, mountain range views, wildlife, and various little train towns as part of our everyday life. I have trulylearned to appreciate some really little things like properly rinsing my toothbrush, chairs, clean clothes, and washing my hands, among other things. It makes me so happy to know that I still am just warming up to this trip and finally feel like a thru hiker. We have increased our average mileage to 15+ per day and although it is a struggle sometimes, we can do it, and feel like champions at the end of the day. Trail Magic is always a great boost and I am hoping to create a page soon that lists some of the random kindness of others that we run into along our journey! I wish I could capture more of this journey in my posts, but time is always limited and there I don't want to write 20 page long posts. If you every have questions or want to know more, feel free to email me or us or shoot me a message on Facebook! I will be posting more videos soon along with the fun stories behind them so you will get some more details soon!
Stay tuned and be well,