Follow the Adventure of a Lone Hiker Tackling the Appalachian Trail – Update 18: Into the Great Smokies

Hiking the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail is no easy feat, especially not when you’re doing it alone.

In this series, we’re following along with a lone hiker doing exactly that, and in update 18 we hear about the Great Smokey Mountains.

Catch Up on Colorado’s Adventure Right Here

Going by the trail name Colorado, a friend of our esteemed publisher is tackling the length of the Appalachian trail, from north to south. The trail begins in Maine and terminates in the Great Smoky Mountains of Georgia, a distance of about 2,200 miles. It usually takes hikers five to seven months to complete the journey.

It may not be the exact type of off-roading you’re used to seeing on TFLoffroad, but getting into the wilderness under your own power is certainly one of the most enjoyable ways to do so.

So enjoy the latest update from the trail, and stay tuned for more.

Hello once again from the trail! And where on earth is Davenport Gap, you ask? Well, I’m at the northeast edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Here are the Smokies behind me, with Davenport Gap in between:

The trail heads right down the center of the Smokies, essentially on the Tennessee/North Carolina border, for the next 75 miles. Having covered 1,950 miles on the AT so far, I’m now left with 241 miles to go. My targeted finish date on Springer Mountain, GA is May 17. Right about 11am. That hour is an estimate.

Getting the Band Back Together –

I won’t be traveling through the Smokies alone. Coming to join me is none other than Rocky, trail veteran who joined me on two occasions last summer and who is gradually cultivating “the look.” The weather forecast looks good and it’s going to be fun. So glad to have her back with me! 

A Little AT History –

The first person to thru-hike the entire AT was Earl Shaffer back in 1948. Builders of the trail at that time were skeptical that anyone could hike the entire length in a single push. But Earl was able to document his accomplishment to the satisfaction of the AT grand poobahs, and is now a famous figure of AT lore. I share this because a couple days ago, while taking an overnight at Elmer’s Sunnybank Inn in Hot Springs, NC, I had the high honor of sleeping in the same room that Earl slept in while making history. And now I have touched a little bit of that history. 

Earl returned in 1998, fifty years later in his 70’s, and repeated his thru-hike. 

Temperamental Spring –
The weather these past four weeks has been, by and large, very good. Most days have been relatively warm and sunny. But there have been some very rainy days, some very windy days and some cold snaps still occurring, with a few nights getting down in the 20’s. I actually ran into some snow on Easter Sunday, which made that day special and memorable. And a trail angel even scattered some Easter eggs around!

One great thing about hiking in the spring (and hiking south) has been the joy of watching the trees leaf out and 
the flowers begin to bloom.

Today I realized how green things have become and that I’m not long from being back into the so-called “green tunnel.”

It’s beautiful, but the trade off is that you start to lose your views. However, occasionally I come across a fire tower that gives you the best views of all:

Fortunately, several of the mountain tops that would otherwise be forested are clear of trees and shrubs and therefore allow good views. These are called balds (think Friar Tuck) and were cleared in the past typically to graze cattle. They are very enjoyable to hike over. 

NOBOs and Noro –

Most of the northbounders started between March 1 and April 1, about 3,000 of them. I had been passing more and more everyday, around 100 in one day last week, but the bubble now seems to be receding. That will help with making camping spots more plentiful. But the biggest “trouble with the bubble” is that they bring the highly contagious Norovirus with them every season. Norovirus is a gastrointestinal nightmare that takes people off the trail for 1-3 days. It’s easily picked up in hostels and shelters along the trail and is one reason I much prefer my tent to the shelters. Just say “no” to noro. 

Getting Grandfathered –

On April 20, daughter Emily and Matt learned the gender of their baby due September 8. It’s going to be a little girl, and I’m going to have my first grandchild! 

Life is indeed good. See you all on the other side of the Smokies.

Colorado