hail, 1,000ft climbs, and bears…oh my!
So, this week has been a bit more challenging for us. On Monday night we stayed in the Fontana Dam ‘Hilton” shelter. This shelter could sleep 24 people, had an awesome view of the lake and dam, and had actual flushing toilets and showers. So nice! I believe all told that we had around 40 people staying including those that tented. Fontana Dam is the gateway into the Great Smokey Mountain National Park and last resupply for several days.
The next day we officially entered the Smokies! This is where we would climb the tallest mountain on the AT Clingman’s Dome at over 6600 ft. It was a beautiful day! At one point on the first day we saw two of the thru-hikers from Germany, Ralph and Armando just standing in the middle of the trail. At first we thought they were just talking but they said there was two bears about 10 ft from the trail ahead of them. Since Reaper had hiked ahead of us we thought he was pretending to be a bear and play a joke on us. Turns out they weren’t joking! There was a cub sleeping not 10 ft from the trail. At first we didn’t see the mom so we were worried about getting in between them. We waited about 15 min until there were about 9 of us and we all passed it together. Moma bear was another 20 ft away from the cub! As we passed the cub ran closer to its mother but they didn’t seem the least interested in us. Thank goodness! They must have just eaten! 🙂 Turns out most of the bears in the Smokies will stay away from humans unless you get in between a mom and her cub. Most of the bear problems happened because people fed the bears in the 60’s and then they became a nuisance. Unfortunetly, we don’t have a picture right now but we will try and get one uploaded to our photo page soon.
Wednesday was a really tough day for Alison. She was struggling with weakness on the uphills. At one point Reaper carried her pack for her. What a sweet guy!
Thursday was a really interesting day. We knew we needed to hike over 13 miles to meet the people pick up our maildrop. We started out early and as soon as we stepped on the trail it started raining, 0.5 miles later it started hailing grape sized hail. The next shelter was only 1 mile away but it was closer to go back so we did. By the time we got there we were drenched and bruised from the hail. We changed and waited a couple hours until the rain stopped. At one point a guy came into our shelter and said he had a truck on the top of Clingmans’s Dome and he would take us into town from there. So we slogged through the ankle deep mud, 1000 ft climb and 5.3 miles to the top of Clingman’s Dome. There were also a couple of section hikers Rose and Sharon who where behind us. Sharon was struggling with a heel blister and trouble breathing, so Reaper ended up going back and carrying her pack while Renee carried both her and Reaper’s packs! Praise God it wasn’t raining and we all made it to the top of the mountain. The 5 of us then caught a ride into town so we could warm up, wash clothes and sleep indoors! So nice.
Here are some random facts about the Smokies:
In the Smokies, they don’t have many privies, they have marked “toilet areas”. You want to watch your step or you might step in a cat-hole!
The shelters used to have chain-link fences to keep the bears out. They don’t have them anymore…I wonder if that is good or bad?
If there are a lot of people weekend hiking they have to “reserve” spots in the shelters. If it is full, only 4 spots can be for thru-hikers, then they have to tent. That doesn’t sound fair.
If you don’t like the weather in the Smokies, wait 5 min. It went from sunshine to snow back to sunshine in 30 min.
One day we were on our feet for 10 hours and only went 15 miles. Yuck.
We will be glad to get out of the Smokies.