Clingmans Dome – Appalachian Trail
Double Spring Gap Shelter (196.4) to Tri-Corner Knob Shelter (221.9)
The weather was clear when I woke. I lingered long at the Hut chatting with the other hikers. Most were going to the nearby town of Gatlinburg to resupply and drink beer. I was heading to Clingmans Dome, the highest point on the Appalachian Trail. I chose to bypass the town and resupply a day or so later at a small farm that opened its doors for hikers.
The rain from previous days had left the trail quite muddy. I was careful with where I placed my feet but not so careful that I didn’t get muddy feet. It was only mud I told myself, there’ll be plenty more over the coming months.
Within sight of the shelter I spied a deer in the bushes feeding off the moss or bark on the trees. It didn’t mind me being close as I inches towards it with my camera. It didn’t seem to mind my company. I watched it feed for a while till it walked off across the trail.
I climbed from camp to Clingmans Dome. At 6612 feet it is the highest point in the Appalachian Trail. I think it’s also the highest point in Tennessee. There was a tower at the summit with 360 degree views. Rolling hills, towns and cloud covered valley made for a worthwhile stop. I didn’t see to many other people at the top, which surprised me.
Not long after descending from Clingmans Dome I crossed the 200th mile of trail. I was happy to hike that distance in under 2 weeks. I’m hiking this trail way faster than I expected. My body feels fine and my blister prone feet have not suffered one blister yet. Might be the Vasque Breeze shoes that I am wearing.
From Clingmans Dome on the Appalachian Trail I descended further to a road crossing at a place called Newfound Gap. I was greeted by a full car park and hundreds of perfumed people. After several days hiking in either heat or rain in had the smell of a person who lived in a pile rubbish.
I was hungry. I sat next to the trash container in the hope that my bad smell could be blamed on the trash, not me. I lay out my damp clothes to dry and ate cashew nuts as the people walked past. Some refused to look at me, some looked then looked away when I caught their eye, others looked down at me like I was a second class citizen and two people wanted their photo taken with me as they were familiar with the Appalachian Trail.
I people watched for a long time. Many people came and went. As I looked around I realised that I can never go back. I can never go back to the life I had before, I just don’t fit in. I’m a square peg in a round hole of what society says we should do with our lives. The hiking, cycle touring and traveling that I’ve done in recent years ruined my life in the best possible way. I spent the whole of the rest of the afternoon in deep contemplation.
I walked late into the afternoon past many exposed ridges with more extensive views. I continued hiking to Tri-Corner Knob Shelter. It was full and tents were packed into every small patch of flat ground. The only flat patch left was right next to the door for the outhouse. I passed on that site and set up on a sloped price of grass surrounded by discarded trash. I found food tins, deodorant, tampons, toilet paper and food wrappers among other things. I must say, the Appalachian Trail has the most trashy campsites of any trail I’ve hiked in USA, very disappointing.