It’s hard to believe but on this day we were already about to enter the Smokies. The groove is definitely being established. In spite of the freezing temperatures, snow, rain, and climbs a pace has been created. Not fast but steady. As a result No Name, Silver and I have passed many. We are now with many who began in February. On this morning we bought enough meals to get us through the expected six days it will take to clear the Smokies. Before we left we got a shaded picture of us at The Fontana Resort.
We went back to the point where we got off the trail and bam!!! They were gone. Bear Bait had left an hour before. I had a moment of “I’m not sure I want to do this”. It passed quickly. I jumped on the trail and followed the edge of Fontana Lake toward the dam. This part of the hike was pleasant.
I arrived after the others, of course, and checked out the visitors center on the dam. It was closed. Evidently it was too cold or off season. I spent about a moment there and climbed the few stairs to the top of the dam. This would be the easiest part of the day. I took a moment to remember that I am supposed to be enjoying this.
Once on the other side of the dam I found the box to put my registration in. It duly noted my name and address and documented the fact that I had paid for the privilege to get lost in these mountains. Only twenty dollars… what a deal I have for you!!! That gave me the right as a thru hiker to sleep in a shelter.
This is what the trail looks like today.
The climb up Shuckstack Mountain began immediately. It was a constant up and I almost immediately found the need to put on my Yak Trax. They are basically chains for your shoes to keep you from falling down and going boom. About a half mile behind me I could hear someone else enter the trail. There was constant chatter as they hiked up the mountain . It took about a mile but they caught up with me. It was the two college boys from Massachusetts. Brandon is now Smalls Too but Marc still had no name. I had been listening to him talk about data studies all the way up the mountain. I must say that it was a time that I would not have able to say a word do to exertion. I called him Database. He liked it. They moved along ahead of me now Database and Smalls Too.
About the same time I spied a beautiful young lady hiking down the mountain toward me. As she reached me I realized that it was Zoomer the young woman from Quebec who had passed me several days before. I asked why she was hiking Southbound. “I’m giving this up! I can’t do this. I’m really unhappy with this.” I was surprised. She was one of the super hikers. She was honest though and we spoke for a moment before we parted ways forever.
I looked back from where we had come. There is no telling what makes people say ” no more”. She certainly had what it took physically to do this. It just was not right for her.
I had not seen our team all day. I soon realized that I was not going to make it to the goal they set for the day. I would for the first time not be with Silver and No Name. The snow in places was up to my knees. The climbing was painfully slow. Thankfully I had placed garbage bags on both feet between my socks and boots.My feet and socks were dry. Life was good.It was approaching six. The snow was constant and getting deeper. Then it appeared…. Mollies Ridge Shelter. It was packed….and among the occupants were No Name,Silver and Bear Bait. They had opted to not go another 3.4 miles. We were still a unit. I now lie here in my sleeping bag….there is snoring beside me. On one side a girl who likes to read the hike guide. On the other side is a military vet who has been on the trail since February named Maverick. He says that it’s our obligation to take a zero day about every five days.
In this miserably cold weather I might even agree! I’m not exactly sure what makes people do things that are out of their comfort level. This is definitely one of those situations. Tonight there are 15 men and women in this shelter. The normal banter and humor is muted. Each and every person was absorbed in their own misery. We were all just wanting to survive the night. Tomorrow it would be deep snow, cold and the attempt to hike 13 miles. Closing my eyes now…. tomorrow would be time to hike on.