Hiking Through The Smokies

Surprisingly, we have another update from Traveler as he makes his way through the Smokies. By my crude reckoning, he’s about 60% of the way through.

March 5, 2008–Fontana Dam to Russell Fields Shelter (13.5 miles)
It was difficult leaving my daughter and grandchildren at Fontana. I had some anxiety about hiking into the Smokies alone and I must have transmitted that to them. I am a fortunate man to have adult children who love me so. Today’s hike was tough, mostly up! Scenery alternated between fog and ice and blue skies with great views. I saw no hikers until I arrived at the shelter, then 2 groups of college kids stopped by and hiked on. As I was finishing dinner 2 married couples (Josh and Amanda & Brakeman and Grasshopper) who are thru-hiking stopped and are staying the night. It’s nice to have some company.
March 6, 2008–Russell Field Shelter to Silers Bald Shelter (14.7 miles)
A long hard day with many long steep climbs. I got some nice photos from just below the summit of Thunderhead, a major mountain in the Smokies. Have enjoyed Josh and Amanda & Brakeman and Grasshopper. They are thru-hiking and have been good companions today, and we are together again tonight at the shelter. The forestry service requires that you stay at a shelter at night which made all of us hike further than we would have liked today. My legs felt like rubber by late afternoon, but I persevered to the end. I have not been able to reach anyone by cell phone. Hope that my family is not too worried about me. I plan to leave the trail tomorrow at New Found Gap (US 441) for an overnight in Gatlinburg, TN. Rain and/or snow are predicted for tomorrow
March 7, 2008–Silers Bald Shelter to US 331, New Found Gap (12.5 miles)
High winds last night became blowing rain about 6am. It was a miserable day to hike. I crossed over Clingman’s Dome, the highest point on the A.T. at 6,643 feet. Somehow I got off the A.T. & down a side trail for about ½ mile. I back-tracked through the parking lot of the Visitors Center which was deserted. I was lost for about 1 hour, but finally picked up the trail below Clingman’s Dome. It was a frustrating experience to say the least. There were lots of trees down on the remaining trail. I got to US 441 about 5pm in a blowing rain. I haven’t hitchhiked since college days. After about 20 minutes a small car with a young couple in it stopped. They were hikers and said they frequently picked up hikers in that spot. My motel, The Grand Prix, is “hiker friendly” and even has a washer/dryer in house! What a luxury!! I plan to re-supply tomorrow while a snow storm blows through. My legs need the rest in any event. Finally got cell phone reception and called Elaine who was much relieved. I think I worried more about not being able to tell her I was O.K. than I did about the trail.

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I hope that we’ll have access to his pictures soon, you know they’ll be posted as soon as possible. The above picture is one I found online from a sunset at New Found Gap, our current location. It does appear that this photo was taken in the fall, so the view is probably a bit different. I’m sure it’s still magnificent.

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