Tennessee and North Carolina

6 Dec

Day 160, Mile 2064

I can’t believe it, but I have only seven more days left until I summit at Springer Mountain in Georgia! We’ve been very busy since my last update in Damascus, making it through Tennessee, the Smokies, and most of North Carolina. Unfortunately, the weather has taken been pretty brutal the last few weeks with lots of rain and winter storms, which has made things quite a challenge to say the least. Sometimes I feel like we’re part of the Postal Service–“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Although the weather is rugged, we hike on.


Sunrise from Vandeventer Shelter

GFog, Lightweight, and I have been hiking together since we left Damascus. GFog is from Atlanta, and so for about a week out of Damascus we were joined by some of his family. It was really nice to have their company, especially since they brought us such great trail magic, like a pumpkin pie and chocolate milk!

I don’t have too many pictures from our first few days out of Damascus and into Tennessee because there was simply nothing to photograph. It was alot like being back in Maine actually, where we would hit a summit that supposedly had one of the best views on the trail, only to be totally boxed in by clouds. For instance, we summitted 6000 ft. Roan Mountain in 80 MPH winds that were blowing us all over the place. We would take one step, only to be tossed 10 feet off the trail by a gust!


Stream feeding into the Nolichucky Gorge

We spent Thanksgiving in Hot Springs, NC at a place called Elmer’s. It’s a cool little B&B run by (who else?) a former thru-hiker named Elmer. His place is actually a 150 year old victorian mansion and was very cool. It was so nice to have a warm bed a friendly place to spend the day. Elmer invited about thirty people over on Thanksgiving for a vegetarian feast, which was really different but good. And after dinner we all headed into the music room for an impromptu jam session! I really couldn’t imagine a better way to spend Thanksgiving on the trail.


Elmer at work in the kitchen


Thanksgiving jam session at Elmer’s

Alas, we had to leave Hot Springs and continue our journey south, heading into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I have been anticipating the Smokies since the start of my trip with a mixture of excitement and fear. Like so many other parts of the trail, the weather can really make it or break it, and weather we had. We had cold rain, freezing rain, freezing fog, sleet, hail, snow—oh, and one day of sunshine. That day was great. The rest…well…they don’t rank highly on my “Greatest Days on the AT” list. I think it’s safe to say that our 23 miler over Clingman’s Dome—the highest point on the entire AT—was probably my most miserable of the entire trip. The combination of freezing rain, long miles, and difficult terrain made for a really long and hard day. I woke up that morning and thought to myself, “Today is about limits.” But when we finally made it to camp that night I realized that the day was really about being tough.


Lightweight and Mountain Yogi heading off Max Patch and into the Smokies


Snowy morning at Tri-Corner Knob Shelter in the Smokies


View of Mt. LeConte in the Smokies


Coming over Rocky Top and near mile 2000 in the Smokies

The last few days have been very cold and snowy. Yesterday we had a regular snow day, and the temperature in the afternoon was 27 degrees! Fortunately, we ended up last night in a motel in Franklin, and now that I am checking the weather I see that it is 17 outside. If we had spent last night out, we might have had to use crow bars this morning to pry us out of our sleeping bags! Here are a few pics from yesterday in the snow:


Lightweight heading off into the snow


G-Fog and I showing off our new snow beards


View of Telico Bald from Wesser Bald

Along with hitting the highest point on the AT, we also crossed mile 2000 while in the Smokies. It’s hard for me to put into words how that feels, but it’s a combination of pride and sadness—so amazed to have made it this far and sad that it’s almost over now. I certainly feel like the rest of the trip is just a cruise into Springer, although in fact it is much more like a mad dash. Since my plane leaves for Dallas on Sunday, I have to finish by Saturday, so there I have no room for error. We’ve been pushing 20+ days for the past week trying to stay on schedule. It kind of feels like finals week in college, trying to cram as much in as possible during the last few days.

And so, the end is nigh. I am so thrilled to be finished and to get home to see everyone, but I know it’s going to be a big adjustment getting back into “regular” living. I have changed in so many ways over the past months, many of which I probably won’t even recognize until days or weeks after I get back. But I do know that my last weeks on the trail will be about grit, drive, determination, and toughness—a challenge worth undertaking. To the end, to Springer, onward I go!

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6 Responses to “Tennessee and North Carolina”

  1. John Warren Oakes December 13, 2009 at 7:17 pm #

    Wonderfilled images !

  2. Karen West (Mama Fog) December 10, 2009 at 4:54 am #

    Tex, we are all so excited about you guys finishing the AT soon! What an adventure! Wish I had found your website sooner. It is great and love the photos! See you on Saturday at the top of Springer Mountain!!!

  3. Kimberly December 8, 2009 at 12:57 pm #

    Bob!!

    I can’t believe you’re almost finished. That’s crazy and exciting! You are my hero.

    Also – JB and I stayed in a tent in 17 degree weather once at the Grand Canyon. I’m glad you got a hotel 🙂

  4. David L December 6, 2009 at 10:53 am #

    After reading this, all I can think to say is that “you are all that is man.” (super troopers reference, in case the trail has made you forget pop culture references – which may or may not be a good thing).

    Seriously, this is one of the coolest and most inspiring things I have ever seen anyone accomplish. You are awesome. Have an amazing last week.

  5. Molly December 6, 2009 at 10:03 am #

    we are so proud of you bobby! and you made it snow on your blog, that is cool.

    press on!

  6. Laura December 6, 2009 at 9:00 am #

    Beautiful pictures. It looks like a winter wonderland! Though I know it doesn’t really feel like that.

    You can do it!!

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