Ah the Smokies. Such beauty, such magnificence mountains, such incredible views, such remarkable landscape changes..... aaannndddd mud. Lots and lots of mud.
Im 5 days into the Great Smokie Mountains. They are beyond the imagination and the most difficult test of my life. Climbing is an understatement. Getting to 6600 plus feet takes lungs, legs and a lot of will.
These last few days are the closest I've felt to my younger running days in more days than I can remember. I'm felling physically stronger each hike but more importantly I feel that determination and high threshold for difficult physical conditions more and more.
That being said the mind is worked at full capacity. The second day in was a wet cold and muddy climb. Close to 14 back and brain breaking miles. It hurt and truly broke me at points. I went down 3 times and my body was not pleased. More than an handful of times I screamed at the mountain words I probably shouldn't print in this blog. By the end I had had it. Not so much with the full hike but most definitely with the day. Quiet and cooking quickly to eat I climbed into my tent at 545. I actually was asleep not to soon after.
They say at your worst give the trail a 3 day window. This more so goes towards those who want to quit but it helps when you're struggling as well. It took 1 day for me.
Good sleep, a great morning and a change of focus did just the job. Most of our crew were up in out at 3am to hike to Clingmans Dome to catch the sunrise. 2 sticks and I took a different approach. Up and out a 9am with 8 miles to shelter we cooked lunch, relaxed and timed our hike to be at Clingmans for sunset.
I made the decision to let my body dictate the hikes moving forward. I've found that I was spending most of my hikes trying to keep up with the youngings. As expected my body was feeling the effects. What the hell is the rush?! Maine ain't going anywhere. I always know where we are camping so I'll get there when I get there. Take it all in and remind myself why I'm out here.
The Clingman experience was wild. Hanging up there and oddly being treated like pseudo celebrities. People asking all kinds of questions and families taking photos with us. Not to mention an unreal view with a wild sunset.
Heres the point where I admit we broke the state park rules. We camped under the tower on Clingmans. It's a no no but who's telling? Shhhhh
We were up at 6am after an extremely windy night. Sleeping in a tent at 6600 feet will do that to you. The rest of the guys were 4 miles ahead at shelter. We got them as they were packing up and we worked hard through the next 4 miles to get to Newfound Gap. It was time for one of those shower, laundry, bad food town stops.
Glatonburg!!!!! The redneck Time Square of the AT. Don't and I mean don't put this town on your bucket list. No offense but Google the place and maybe you'll understand. That being said you cleaned me and fed me and somehow I got through my first 2 hitches without being murdered. Side note; thank you both kind folks for the rides in and out. It's close to 30 min each way and it meant a whole bunch you helped us with the trip. I guess not everything is bad with Glatunburg.... But pretty close to it.
I'm in shelter right now finally back in the Smokies. It was a short day with just a 3 mile hike back up the mountain. It's cold, rainy and the shelter has 17 sleeping in a 15 sleeper. Tenting would be hard with the conditions so cramming in is the better option. Even with the not so ideal situation I'll take this over the city any day.
Being in town presented loud cars, fast food, TV, unruly people and more. The AT is truly showing me why I love the woods. In the city Im edgy and a bit Boston attitude. Out here Im breathing and slowing it all down. This is my cleanse. A much needed one at that. Give me the trail, mud and rain. Give me the views, trees and silence. Give it all to me and remind me there's no rush at all. I mean Maine ain't going anywhere right?
Hike the good hike ya'll
Jesse AKA the Boston Mule