The wind was whipping all night. I thought my tent was going to collapse and apparently so did a few other people after talking to them this morning. All tents were still standing though. I ate a small breakfast before heading out to warm up. I got to the next shelter less than 2 miles away to finish breakfast and found a privy. Apparently some shelters do have them and lines form every morning as people are excited to sit down for a change.
We finally reached the elevation where evergreens start showing up. Someone had told me the Smokies looked like Oregon but I didn’t get it before. Today was so green though, moss and ferns on everything. I loved it, it was a nice change from the brown that everything has been so far.
It was very cloudy but as we moved up the mountain, we could see the clouds lifting a bit and the sun peeking through. We got to Clingmans Dome for lunch, which is the highest point on the AT at 6643 feet. The sun kept coming in and out so we couldn’t hang out long. The original plan had been to do a shorter mileage day so we could spend some time at the top, and then nero into Gatlinburg tomorrow. Stretch and I decided we might as well go all the way today though and zero tomorrow instead. Pacemaker and Runner Up had already left to try to get to town tonight so we were off after them.
Yesterday I had seen a few little patches of snow here and there, and there was a slightly icy part on the last stretch up to Clingmans Dome. The way down was completely icy though. We were slipping and sliding all over the place. Then there would be a portion of the trail all muddy from the snow melt, then more ice and slick snow. Sometimes you’d think you were getting back onto dirt, but after stepping you realize it’s a fake out. It’s just dirt-colored ice! Some parts of the trail you had the option between going on the ice or going in the stream of snow melt next to it, so once my feet slipped and got a little wet, I was just splashing right through the center of any water and mud. Who cares about wet feet, I’ll be in town tonight! It was a little weird to be running through in short sleeves and meanwhile my feet were swimming in snow melt. My feet looked a hundred years old from the wrinkles by the time I got my wet socks off later. Bag Balm to the rescue!
We had been rushing because we thought there was a shuttle at Newfound Gap at 5. We caught up with Pacemaker and Runner Up and they said it was really at 4:45. That was cutting it super close but we kept rushing. We got to another parking lot 1.7 miles before our gap at 4:25 so there was no way we would make it. When I called about the shuttle, it turned out it didn’t exist any way. I called the Grand Prix Motel we all intended to stay at and arranged a shuttle through them instead. They picked us up an hour later from Newfound Gap after 12.5 miles.
I had been hearing Gatlinburg variously called Tacky Town, Las Vegas of the South, Myrtle Beach of the Mountains, etc, but I think it’s a perfectly nice little town. It is definitely themed and touristy but whatever. It’s fun for a short trip. We got settled into the room, showered, and headed out for a big Italian dinner. I couldn’t finish mine so I have leftovers for tomorrow.