Day 63

I open my eyes about 6am to the sound of trucks driving in, idling, and driving out again. The store must be open. I go back to sleep and I awake to rain tapping on the window. I go back to sleep in hopes the weather will change. At around 10 I jump out of bed and gather my things. I’m so hungry I can’t put it off any longer. I walk down to the store and am greeted cheerily by Tony and JJ. I ask Tony for a bacon egg and cheese and buy a Gatorade. There’s a guy there that works for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and agrees to drive me back out to the trail. Looks like the weather will clear up this afternoon. I eat my sandwich quickly and thank the Pippins for their kindness. They wished me well as I walked out the door. I’m was on the trail by 11:30. The trees and plants are electric with the color green. The trail is muddy and the rocks are slippery. Water is flowing everywhere. I’m going up more than down today. Total of 3600 feet elevation gain but will get a spectacular view at the fire tower.

My pack is especially heavy today and the sun is heating up the woods. I had just switched my sleeping bag from my lightweight summer 40 degree to my winter 20 degree bag which is 10 ounces heavier. Plus, I’ve added a set of long johns. I began the climb moving slowly. It was steep walking over large rocks that eventually turned into shear rock. I got a view of Smarts Mountain with the tiny tower at the top. That’s where I’m headed. Halfway up I scramble up more rock faces and step up on rebar bolted into the rock.

I reached the fire tower by 3:30 and enjoy the 360 degree views from the top. I waddle down the stairs to check out the old ranger cabin which is now a shelter. I had thought about staying here for the night but it was kind of creepy and no one was there yet. The water source was pretty sketchy, as in there were only puddle of water to collect from that smelled like rotten eggs. Only 5 miles to Hexacuba shelter so off I went to hike along the ridge of Smarts Mountain.

About 2 miles before the shelter I passed a big creek with clean smelling water and filled up my 2 liters. I had read the water source at the next shelter was also not reliable. I arrived at about 6:30 after a steep .2 up to the shelter. A group of hikers were already there with a fire going. The two good tent sites were taken so I settled for a narrow one with a dip and downward angle. I pitched my tent as best I could incase it rained again and went to make my dinner. The hikers were friendly but there was a know-it-all among the bunch so I steered clear. It took me about 15 minutes to throw a rock over a tree with my rope to hang my food bag. I was in my tent by 9 and listening to Harry Potter, glad to be back in the woods. It would be cold tonight, in the low 50s.

Miles: 1767.3 – 1778.5 (11.2)

Total: 678.1