Miles today: 23.6
Miles total: 1968.7
Miles total: 1968.7
Currently laying in the shelter...
Well, the Smokies seem to be my last real test. They tested me today, alright. Danko and I enjoyed a nice, late start after the marathon day yesterday. Danko had to get his permit for the Smokies still, so we waited until Curtis, the owner of Standing Bear, showed up. With all our ducks in a row, we made the remaining descent into Davenport Gap. We crossed under I-40, just another place where I had crossed the AT in the past without knowing it. The elevation was 1400 feet, and we knew what came next. Up into the Smokies, past Davenport Gap Shelter we climbed. About halfway up our big climb (3.5 miles in), we stopped for a break. We agreed that maybe yesterday had taken a bit out of us. We took off again at our own paces, and soon I passed Danko as he sat on a tall boulder in the sun. I finally got up to Mount Cammerer at 5000 feet and got a break. Down to Cosby Knob Shelter I went, the site of a much-needed break. I zoned out as I made my PB&J tortilla. I was kind of zoned out all afternoon. The trail had kicked my butt and was continuing to do so.
I walked the gradual incline up another 1400 feet or so to my true high point of the day, and of the trail so far for that matter, Mount Guyot. The woods turned back into the sub-alpine forest with pine trees really prevalent. It changed the whole look of the trail too. It reminded me of the Forbidden Forest from Harry Potter. I stopped at Tri-Corner Knob to recharge my battery, but came upon an almost-full shelter already. I was overwhelmed by the amount of gear. I managed to find a place to sit down and eat. A couple of guys on a 4-day hike told me about the upcoming difficulties on the trail, to which I half-listened, which is more than I can sometimes say. I headed on sooner than I had expected, worrying about a potentially crowded shelter ahead and thinking about how the National Parks are managed. I wondered if the Smokies had not been designated a National Park, would so many people come out to hike here? There are plenty of beautiful sections of trail elsewhere that don't get nearly as much foot traffic. Could it be that in attempting to preserve this amazing place that we are doing it in somehow? Bear are everywhere, to an unnatural extent. Wild boars run rampant, a by-product of introducing them a long time ago as an animal to hunt. Red wolves were later introduced to hunt down some unwanted smaller animals. I think we might be better off leaving things alone. That being said, this has been one of my favorite areas to walk through, and it is a very unique ecosystem that needs to be protected somehow. The Smokies are really a rainforest, so our three-day hurried trip is designed to avoid that trademark rain. Day one was a success! Days two and three are looking good. I would rather not have to deal with cold, windy, rainy days when I am at the highest point on the whole AT, but hey, that's just a personal preference.
Pictures: Pine trees popping up amongst the hardwoods; the blurry trail up high; late-afternoon view.