Day 34: Mile 207.3 | Travelodge @ Gatlinburg
We woke up early and walked quickly. We made the split decision to go into town. You see, my 'Hiker Hunger' finally kicked in... I had eaten my '6 Days' worth of food in about 4 days. We were all running low on food and morale. It had been a hard few days. In addition, a rain storm was on the way which would bring slush and ice.
We hiked all day through the snow. We made it to Clingman's Dome around mid morning. The day was beautiful but the snow had fatigued our muscles. We were all tired. Clingman's was beautiful, but cold. The views were incredible and with no one else there I felt privileged and also like I was in a Dystopian novel...
After a few pictures we quickly moved off the dome in favor of less windy weather down below. With little cell service that day I scrambled to find accommodations for us in Gatlinburg. It was a weekend, the last weekend of NC spring break, and we had a dog with us. I phoned my Mom for help. Hangry, I freaked out on her a little (sorry mom). We also weren't sure if the road to Gatlinburg from Newfound Gap was even open that day. I struggled through crappy cell service to find the Smokies government web page to find out they don't update it daily. If the road was open we could go to town, but we would need a ride to town and somewhere to stay once there. Oh, by the way, we passed mile 200 sometime that day...
With my anxiety and sensory processing disorder (SPD) I find it very difficult to get to town without any plan at all. I hadn't planned on going into Gatlinburg in the first place and now I was going and without any plan. I need to find accommodations, laundry, food resupply, dinner for that night, and a ride to all of it. I was freaking out.
I hiked as fast as I could. Josh sped ahead of us because he was cold. Tang and I powered through. With two miles left until the gap Tang went ahead of me to see if Josh managed to get a ride into town at the gap because we couldn't get a hold of any shuttles. When I arrived at the gap, Josh had secured a ride with a local trail named Montana. She was planning to hike next year. She drove us down to the NOC (a satellite store run by the real NOC). We thanked her for the ride and put our packs down on the rocks near the parking lot. We bought gatorades and stroll wafels inside the store while we tried to figure out where we were going to stay. I was stressed out, hangry, tired, and overstimulated. My phone wouldn't work after not having service all week, even though it said I had 4 bars and LTE.
Mom came through, finally, with three rooms. We ended up walking down to the Travelodge. We walked in with our packs on to check in. The woman at the desk told us they did a hiker rate! We were ecstatic! After all, something went in our favor. We went up to our room and found a coupon for CiCi's Pizza buffet, conveniently right around the corner. We went over there as it began to rain. Turns out, CiCi's has an incredible condiments selection: parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, and lemon juice! Tang was the only one who had any pockets so we filled them all with condiments. Classic hiker trash.
Back at the Travelodge we called down to the lobby to find out if they had anything available for the next night because we need to do our resupply, laundry, and it was supposed to rain tomorrow. They didn't have anything available. After calling around every budget hotel in town, we found a room at Motel 6. But they required us to book two nights to get the room. We decided to book it and take an extra zero, after all we'd been cold for days.
Day 35: Mile 207.3 | Motel 6 @ Gatlinburg
We got kicked out of the Travelodge at 11. We cut it close packing and Josh accidentally left his wallet in the room after we had already checked out. We got a Lyft (we had to wait 25 minutes for it but it was so worth it) to the Laundromat. We did our laundry and got some supplies at the Dollar General next door. We ran into Tater Tot and Trashman there as well!
After laundry we walked over to the grocery store. We called our Lyft back to the hotel on the way to the grocery store since we knew we'd have to wait half an hour. We hurried through or resupply and took our Lyft back to the Motel.
After we got back I went out in search of some Chinese food. I was having a craving. I found some about a mile from the hotel. It was disappointing. I had a mental breakdown on a bench in the middle of Gatlinburg. I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and I was feeling stressed out. Not having a plan really wore on me. Brit in between motels while we had to run our errands was a bit difficult. I felt like I needed to just be alone and sleep for like 12 years.
While I sat on that bench, it started to rain. I got up and walked in my crocs and fleece, I had forgotten my rain coat back at the Motel. On my way back I stopped at the NOC to replace my food bag. I had also gotten the idea from a guy called Fanny Panther to pick up a Fanny pack for my snacks since my hip belt pockets were so small. I got some gear patches (I used all of mine up) and some more bear rope (I made mine into guylines for my new tent). I got back to the Motel and organized my food resupply.
While we were organizing our food back at the Motel we saw Cinnabun, Peanut, Blade, and Cackles walk by our window! We hung out with them for a bit. They went to some moonshine tastings. We opted to stay in and keep out of the rain, and keep from spending too much money. I took a good, long nap.
Day 36: Mile 207.3 | Motel 6 @ Gatlinburg
We went out for breakfast first thing in the morning. They served 'flapjacks' which were definitely actually pancakes... they didn't serve maple syrup. After breakfast I made up for it with a good Flat White from a Starbucks across the way. We went back to the Motel and napped and organized our gear. I blogged for a bit.
We went out for dinner around 6pm. The boys got Five Guys while I seemed out a Margherita and a Burrito at a Tex Mex place around the corner. We all got it to go and ate outside Five Guys.
It was a good, Lazy zero. I really needed it.
Day 37: Mile 217 | Peck's Corner Shelter
We left Gatlinburg around 11 via Lyft. The woman who drove us back up to Newfound Gap was so sweet! She even took our picture for us at the sign!
Once again, during the car ride back to the trail I started to get nervous. Even queasy a little. My anxiety was acting up again. I don't get it. I know I'll be fine and that I've done it before and that I like it. But for some reason I get the jitters every time I go back to the trail.
Anyway, after our photo, we headed toward the white blazes. It was cloudy, but a relatively nice day. The parking lot was packed. There were tourists everywhere. I had never been to any part of the AT that was so populated and high traffic before. It was difficult to hike around all the tourists and they didn't know how trail etiquette worked so they didn't let us pass when we were behind them, they didn't move over when we were going uphill, they looked at us like we were crazy. Finally, after a few miles we passed most of them.
I had to pee really badly that entire 3 miles but the people were everywhere and we couldn't get away from them! We got to the first shelter in and I crept away to some rhododendrons to do my thing. Eventually, we got to Charlie's Bunion and had a great snack and view:
I had a terrible cough this day. My knee really started to bother me, too. It was the outside of my knee. I couldn't imagine why it would be hurting. I dismissed it and rolled out my legs very hard that night.
We got to the shelter pretty early. It was on a big hill we realized there were only 3 tent sites and 4 of us had tents. Tang and I ended up sharing his 2 person tent on one of the only 'flat' spots.
We ate down at the shelter with Cinnabun, Peanut, Blade, Cackles, and Skywater. I also ran into Chandler and his dad, do you remember them from Day 2?! They've changed all of their gear and are now thriving. I had instant mashed potatoes for dinner that night with chicken from Tyson. It was disgusting. Never again.
After dinner we hung out by the tent and I rolled my muscles. We went to bed around 9pm. At about 4am I hear Tang whisper, "L. A.!" "Yeah?" I asked. I had apparently been sleeping and snoring quite loudly. I didn't even notice. I had been laying on my back. I NEVER sleep on my back at home! It must be this new sleeping pad... I apparently snore much more on my back than my side. Like father like daughter, am I right?!
Day 38: Mile 230 | Cosby Knob Shelter
The morning we woke to was foggy and rainy. It was dark and drab. I hiked through mud and slush all day. I felt gloomy and homesick. I walked past a fallen spruce that smelled just like the New Hampshire woods and I immediately started to sob. I was so homesick. I was tired. I was all stuffed up and couldn't stop coughing.
I put on a podcast and with my mood the day began to brighten. I ate lunch and I really started feeling better. Food can make all the difference, folks! I listened to my podcast for the rest of the day and when we got the shelter we found 2 great tent sites for me and Tang and 2 fantastic trees for Josh's tent. I finally got to use my new tent! We sat up at the shelter eating. The view through the trees in front of the shelter were beautiful. A stream ran right in front of the overhang on the shelter! And there were bear cables! It was perfect.
Josh and I hung out by my tent for a while listening to music and Tang went off to call his girlfriend. It was a beautiful night and we could even see a few stars, finally!