28th April 

25.5 miles

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 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. 

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.

A deer near the shelter

The summit of Clingmans Dome

The view north

200 miles

Eating and drying out gear at Newfound Gap

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12 Responses

  1. lifetimetrails

    After just another crazy workday in the office I can totally understand that you don’t want to be back in so-called “normal” life. I also had some similar situations on the PCT in the touristy areas when people walked past and looked at me in a strange way. I can understand.
    Don’t ever come back. Be out there and be happy!!

    Reply
    • BikeHikeSafari

      I don’t think I can come back. Thru hiking has ruined my life in the best possible way.

      Reply
  2. Mike D.

    Sounds like you discovered the meaning of life. I couldn’t agree with you more. Cheers to your discovery!

    Reply
  3. Ian

    I do worry about the AT and the overcrowding and trashiness. Have you found the hiking community atmosphere to be much more of a “party” mindset? I have heard that from a few others.

    Reply
    • BikeHikeSafari

      I have avoided crowded places fir the most part. A lot of young people go to town and stay 1-3 days spending lots of money on alcohol, I haven’t been doing that, my budget does not allow it. The party scene is there if you seek it, solitude is also there if you seek it.

      Reply
  4. crazybikedream

    Congrats Brad on 200 miles and great pace! 10% done. Has any thru hiker passed you going North? I recall Jeff Garmire was averaging over 30 miles daily as he did AT PCT and CDT last year in 10 months. That’s ultra light, ultra fast.

    Reply
    • BikeHikeSafari

      Yes there is a hiker I met on the CDT, Sketchy is her name. She started 2 days after me and is now ahead of me. That’s all I know of.

      Reply
  5. Heather

    I have enjoyed all the beautiful pictures of Tennessee as I was born and raised there. We went to Gatlinburg several times, and I would love to go back. Your square peg comment has got me thinking. Maybe the others just haven’t been lucky enough to find their square peg yet? Or maybe they are content to just be a round peg. I think you are most fortunate to have discovered a life full of joy and excitement.

    Reply
    • BikeHikeSafari

      I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my life lately, even more than that I’ve been thinking about how everybody else lives their life. No answers yet, I shall keep thinking.

      Reply

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