Stealth camping, about 5 miles from Hot Springs [mile ~268]
I’m disappointed by the lack of cell service. I’d hoped to be able to at least check email daily, but that hasn’t been the case. Hopefully things will improve after Hot Springs. I hate to bomb people with ten updates at a time! Sorry to do that!
So. Today I pounded out about 14 miles. OK, so that’s not particularly big miles; for me, though, it’s huge. The key is that I did it two days in a row.
Sunrise on Max Patch was stunning. Up there, the sky never ends; it’s all mountainous horizon, in all directions.
DB and Two Socks were originally planning to hike to Walnut Mountain shelter. I was playing it by ear. With Hot Springs only 20 miles away, the days didn’t break neatly. It was Walnut Mountain at 7 miles or Deer Park Mountain at 17. And everybody’s been talking about a potentially torrential rain that may or may not be coming. Stories varied depending on which local person we asked. Some said Wednesday night, some said Thursday. Some said lightning. Some said the mountains would break it up.
I figured on tenting even if I were at a shelter. One rainy night, pack up, and book to Hot Springs.
It was another broiling day. My arms are sunburned. So’s the back of my neck, judging from the sting when I exchanged my filthy shirt for my less filthy shirt. Despite the heat, the hiking was mostly good—lots of streams and rocky springs tucked in rhododendron forests. A dozen varieties of tiny wildflowers scattered in the leaves like confetti. Just a couple of big uphills, but mostly easy terrain.
I did run into some gastrointestinal issues. I actually think my body isn’t processing sugar well, and I’d snagged a giant iced honeybun at the trail magic yesterday. Can’t wait for real food in Hot Springs!
Speaking of Hot Springs…. My usual MO Is to call the day before a town visit and set up a place to stay. Alas, no cell service all day. I did manage to place a call to one motel in the guidebook, but the number is out of service. My big fear is that I’ll arrive in town and find the few rooms sold out. On the other hand, the guide listed only about three hotels for Gatlinburg, and it turned out there were… oh… a bazillion. I’m hoping there are also other hotels in Hot Springs. If not, well… not sure what I’ll do. I’ve been planning to take two days here since the beginning. I guess the trail will have to sort it out for me!
Anyway, I couldn’t make it all the way to the next shelter. My feet were too sore. I was wondering what to do when I looked down and spotted this lovely little stealth site near a rocky stream. I snagged it! I rinsed the worst grime off my shirt, so hopefully I won’t be too offensive tomorrow when I’m looking for lodging. (Also, I’m going to buy another shirt.)
I remember Wiggy saying, “You’ll eventually reach a point where you’ll see a pretty spot by a stream, and you’ll camp there because it’s beautiful.” Wiggy’s advice keeps on unpacking.
So, maybe rain tonight. I’m betting yes, given the heat and the stormclouds. Fingers crossed that there’s room for me in Hot Springs! If I can hit the trail by 7, I should hopefully beat the rush.