Miles today: 28.6
Miles total: 1997.3
Miles total: 1997.3
Currently laying in the loft...
The Smokies continue to test me. After a late start due to yesterday's late end (do you see how this sort of behavior propagates?), I used the privy and set off. I realized pretty early on that I had left my elevation profile for the day back at the shelter somewhere. I would be flying blind! It wasn't really a big deal; there are directional signs throughout the park with mileages listed, and it's only for one day. I climbed out of the fog and had some pretty surreal views of the sunrise over a sea of clouds. I was moving slowly, but I do every morning. After some ridge walking with drop-offs on either side, I arrived at Icewater Spring Shelter. It's a popular spot because it's between Charlie's Bunion (an exposed rock face) and Newfound Gap. This brings a lot of day hikers out. I met a few on my way to the shelter, and a few more as I snacked. Danko stopped in to snack as well, and we shared our sluggish feelings. It's been a tough couple of days! I took off and headed towards Newfound Gap, the access point for basically any and all tourist activity in the area. Gatlinburg is 15 miles west if that helps you imagine the typical visitor. Like a salmon swimming upstream, I made my way through a torrent of hikers going up to the Bunion. I began greeting some as I normally would, but then I got a little weird. That usually meant laughing maniacally at whatever their response was. I'll never see them again! I crossed the gap and went through a busy parking lot. I avoided getting run over and went on my way.
From Newfound Gap, I had a steady but not-too-difficult climb up to Clingmans Dome, the highest point on the whole trail. There were a lot of rock steps, so I got a different kind of workout than I'm accustomed to. I met the ridge runner whom I had seen near Hampton, TN, which was cool. Other than that, I just put my head down and climbed. The reward was not that great, as the summit was in a cloud. I hung out at the observatory tower for a while, hoping something would change. No luck. Down the mountain I went, with my legs feeling pretty darn tired. I stopped for water and a quick rest at Siler's Bald Shelter, where the banality of the conversation almost drove me insane. I cut my break short. My feet were the big complainers today, especially a couple of my toes. My sock has worn through in one spot, allowing my poor little pinky toe to get rubbed raw. Also, my big toe is in the process of losing a nail, but it isn't going as smoothly as I had hoped. This made for a looooong 5.5 miles to end the day as well as adding a touch of red to my yellow shoes. But it's all good! I made it and kicked back at the shelter, which was luckily not entirely full. And I survived the rounds of section hiker banter, so it's a good night. The end of the Smokies tomorrow!
Pictures: Charlie's Bunion; Clingmans Dome tower; me posing with the view on Clingmans Dome.