I just climbed down out of the Smoky Mountains! My first three days were very challenging. I have determined that the Smokies are a formidable force! They make their own weather! Towns just below these magnificent mountains can be having fair weather with balmy temperatures, and at the higher elevations it can be snowing. My Smoky experience started out with three days of rain and spotty snow, roaring winds, and temperatures down to the high twenties. My last two days were absolutely gorgeous. So, the upshot is that all I could see was white for three days. Nevertheless, I got some dramatic photos. Finally, when the weather cleared I could see fabulous views in the distance. When I can find a computer in a non pressurized situation, I will share some of these photos with you.
In the Smokies, AT thru-hikers have to file a theoretical plan of which shelters they are going to stay in. And we have to stay in the shelters. This is because of bears. Some of the shelters even have chain link fences across the front to keep the bears out! I did not see any bears, although some of my hiker friends did. No one was ever threatened by a bear.
There’s an old Johnny Cash song, “I Walk the Line.” Well, for much of the last four days, I have been walking the line: the line between North Carolina and Tennessee. No kidding, sometimes the trail was like the edge of a knife with sheer drops to the left and right. If I looked to my left, I saw Tennessee, to the right North Carolina. That was when I could see something other than white. Even then, I often felt that I was in another world, a place high above the rest of the world.
The Smokies are different from the other mountains I have experienced. The mountains are bigger. The valleys are deeper. The weather is more extreme. And the elevation . . . far greater than anything else I will experience on the entire Appalachian Trail. Three days ago, I climbed Clingmans Dome at 6643 feet in altitude. It is the highest mountain on the Trail. It even has a space age observation tower on top. Of course, this was one of the days I was totally surrounded by clouds, so I could not see a thing. But it was still beautiful. The fir and hemlock forests in these high elevations are amazing. And when trees get blown over by high winds, they are soon taken over by various mosses. It is an environment of life, death, and renewal.
I will have to relate an amazing encounter that I had with my sister Rosalind’s son Jack. Jack is a graduate student in biomedical engineering at the University of Tennessee. Jack was to meet me at Newfound Gap, a highway crossing of the Trail, last Friday. He was to bring me a box of supplies to support the next part of my hike. We planned on him hiking with me a ways. When I hiked into the gap, the wind was blowing so hard I could hardly stand up. The fog was so thick, you could not see fifty feet. Even though I was only fifteen minutes past the time I told Jack I would be there, there was no sign of him anywhere indian generic propecia. I sought shelter in a heated men’s room. I tried leaving cell phone messages for Jack to tell him not to come, but I could not get through to him. An hour later when I was preparing to brave the weather and hit the trail, the door of the men’s room opened and in came Jack. He was as amazed as I was that we connected. I got my supplies, but we called off hiking together. I headed out and hiked ten miles to the next shelter. It was very challenging, but it proved to me that I can do more than I think I can sometimes. It also proved to me that someone is looking after me.
Tomorrow, I head toward Hot Springs, NC where I hope to rest for two days. But tomorrow the temperature is supposed to plummet and bring snow. Well, I need to have faith and push on.
All my best,
Braid, AKA Joe Liles
PS. My constant companion in the Smokies through rain and shine has been the Junko, a small gray colored bird, that gives me encouragement every day. It is out there in all conditions, just like me.