Day 30: This is how the trail works

My original plan was to avoid Gatlinburg like the plague. I’d heard from pretty much everybody that it was a shitty tourist trap, expensive, and without even a real grocery store for resupply. Plus there was the issue that it was generally easier to get to Mars from the trail than to Gatlinburg.

Yet here I am.

And it’s fascinating.

I would have missed this entirely if the trail hadn’t grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and swung me around and let me fly.

Gatlinburg’s like a big-hair-and-grits version of the boardwalk. Space needle! Mirror maze! Arcade! Ripley’s museum! Hotels, hotels, hotels! Old time photos! It smells like cigarettes and cheap perfume and popcorn and fryer grease. And it rings with pinball bells and car engines. There’s a quickie wedding place. There’s a fondue restaurant. Giant kitschy statues—bears in bathrobes, classic cars.

You wouldn’t believe all the trail magic I’ve found in Gatlinburg. First, Erik from, who shuttled me down, is a local expert on the trail and backpacking. He gave me a lot of incredible information about the history of the Smokies, this vestige of the boreal forest. He also gave me some practical breathing techniques related to exercise physiology that are specific to going up these hills.

I caught up to SBS and Bud, who got the last room in this hotel. (Amusingly enough, SBS just texted me. She heard from another hiker that yesterday a hysterical woman with hypothermia had to be rescued off the mountain. LOL. The most embarrassing game of whisper-down-the-lane ever. Just shows you how quickly hiker gossip moves, and how exaggerated the actual facts can get.)

This morning I met a flip-flop hiker named Chris (who knows my friend Bunny from earlier on the trail) and had a fantastic couple of hours of conversation. Also, she gave me some trigger point tips for hamburger feet!

There’s a Walgreen’s a block from the hotel. They have the exact anti-hamburger insoles I used at home. I can’t wait to see if they help!

And I met somebody who’s a friend of a friend… and he works at Walgreen’s and has a pair of microspikes he’s willing to give me!

The outfitter had the perfect rainpants to replace my useless ones, along with a lighter-weight hat and some flipflops.

Astonishing. And I wasn’t going to come into Gatlinburg at all.

This trail, man. It answers.

In other news, Socks is off the trail: knee surgery. She’s aiming to be back in four to six weeks. And my friend Anacondan Ed is off the trail after a bad fall and a busted tailbone. I heard of another hiker who fell on ice and cracked three vertebrae. (Of course, I’m taking that with a grain of salt now; maybe she stubbed her toe, LOL.)

I love you, Gatlinburg. You’re magic.





Categories: Appalachian Trail | Tags: | 18 Comments

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18 thoughts on “Day 30: This is how the trail works

  1. My cousins love Gatlinburg. ๐Ÿ™‚ I hope you enjoy it while you’re there.

    Be careful out there. Someday, I want to do this…maybe….

  2. Marge

    I just sent a reply. Don’t know where it went? My Ripley is named after Ripley’s B I or Not cause his ears were as big as his body when he was 7 wks old. It’s ALL Trail Magic, yes?! What a living/breathing (better today, I hope) witness you are to Trail Magic!! What are your tentative plans for your next 24 hrs? xoxo

    • You’re so right!! It IS all trail magic! Get this, Marge. I had the most amazing conversation this morning with a woman who lost her most
      beloved dog Lacey just two months ago!

  3. Marge

    It’s a month today, right? Rough guess as to how many people you have met, on and off the trail?

    • Tecnically I started the trail on the 7th. (it took a couple of days to get there.)

      Let’s see. I started out knowing one person live and one person via email. I’d estimate I met 30 in the first two days. I meet at least 10 people every town stop. And I meet… oh… an average of 3 new faces every time I camp. So… oh… 130 people? Not counting the friends of friends! Everybody does this alone, and nobody does. It’s another amazing fellowship!

  4. Marge

    And we are all different, but really….all alike. We don’t want to talk, and yet we all want someone to listen. The back of my new AT shirt says, The Journey Is the Destination! Every day you are proving that to be true, my friend, as well as how connectedmwe are all to each other. I think that Trail Magic is that we ALL have something the other one needs.

  5. Loon

    Glad to see you got some unexpected and magical surprises. Nothing like it to turn around the attitude. Keep on trudging Karma!

  6. Gatlinburg sounds like Branson, just south of where I am, only Branson does not have the trail magic. I have been meaning to tell you how much I enjoy your writing. And even when you are down I love how you turn your attitude around. Look forward to virtually following you all the way.

    • Thanks, Red!

      I’ve heard of Branson. Not sure why! (Ironically, I’d never heard of Gatlinburg.)

  7. Anne P

    So I posted a day or two ago that I wanted to beam you down sone gel insoles, micro spikes and rain pants. And now you have them. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. They have a beef jerky outlet. Can’t go wrong there!

  9. Lisa milstead

    Hope you checked out the moonshine place, while you were there. WHEN I get out there to do my hike, I’m going to go to G-burg, just to buy some of that to celebrate the end of the ‘Smokes’.

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