Day 24 (Apr. 14th) – 12.6 miles Fontana Road to Mollies Ridge Shelter. Today we entered the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! It was a good day, I felt so much better than yesterday (some minor foot pain yesterday that dragged me down). The shelter was full and others were tenting out so we are too.
Day 25 (Apr. 15th) – 12.0 miles Mollies Ridge Shelter to Derrick Knob Shelter. Pretty nice hike till lunch, then the uphills started. Hard day but our bodies felt good. We are slow slow on the uphills, but we get there eventually! We hit Rocky Top Mountain, TN. Tenting again, shelter is full. Had some 4-cheese mashed potatoes for dinner – yum.
Day 26 (Apr. 16th) – 13.6 miles Derrick Knob Shelter to Mt. Collins Shelter – our longest day yet! We hit the highest point on the AT today at 6,612 ft, Clingman’s Dome. Also hit the 200 mile mark. Had planned a short day, but turned into a longer day (as thunderstorms expected for Monday, so now we only have 4.2 miles to do Monday where a friend is meeting us). Long day, but we are good! I was chatting with a guy about how there’s always a steep uphill right before each shelter, and he said, “Yep, but if it was easy, everyone would do it.”
Day 27 (Apr. 17th) – 4.2 miles Mt. Collins Shelter to Newfound Gap, 10th day of hiking in a row. Short day today, spent some time hiking in the rain. Hung out with trail angel “Yard Dart” in parking lot, who’s wife is thru-hiking, we’ve seen him for trail magic three times now, nice guy, but haven’t met his wife yet. Then our friends Betty and Robert picked us up – we had dinner and then they took us to this LOVELY cozy cabin in the woods outside of Gatlinburg (Pigeon Forge) that they are generously letting us stay in! It is so cool and private and very comfortably furnished. Relaxation time…