Day 31 -April 7 2017- 4.3 miles – Mt Collins Shelter to Newfound Gap
” It was cold last night + very windy. My body kept did not like sleeping on a wood floor. Even with my air mattress, I kept doing a rotisserie of discomfort. Temps in the 20s or less. Glad we were in the shelter” – Journal excerpt 4/7/2017
It was a cold morning. When I grabbed my sock that were “drying” on a beam I had a suprise. The socks had frozen solid in a melted boomerang type shape. I tapped them on the wooden flooring and it sounded like I was using a hammer. The other hikers had the same experience. All of our boots were frozen too. We had to beat our shoes against the shelter to make them pliable enough to get our feet into. It looked pretty comical. If there was a hidden camera in the shelter it would have looked like a group a angry hikers were taking it out on their shoes.
Stoat and I had to pack up our hammocks from the previous nights failed attempt at camping and we were still almost the first hikers out on the trail. No one was in a rush to get moving. Only a hiker named Lucky and the Father / Daughter got on trail ahead of us.
It was cool to be some of the first people on trail after it snowed. Although the it had only snowed 4 – 6 inches the wind had blown it into drifts which were knee deep.
After a mile or two we could see by the footprints that the father/daughter got a ride from a plow truck at a small parking lot. That left only Lucky’s footprints ahead of us.
After a few more miles of frolicking in the snow we got to Newfound Gap.
We were told that it would be an easy hitchhike into Gatlinburg. The empty parking lot told us otherwise. We waited around for a few minutes to see if any cars would show up. We started to get cold so we decided to call for a $40 shuttle into town.
Around ten minutes later a parade of cars came streaming into the lot. Within minutes people were circling to find a spot. We asked someone what was going on. They told us the road had been closed and had just opened. We were offered a ride more than once, but we had already called the shuttle. We werent going to stiff someone after they just drove 15 miles up curvy mountain roads.
There was a guy asking if we had seen a certain hiker. We said we hadn’t seen them and he went on his way. It wasn’t until later that we realized the hiker he was asking about was the one that was airlifted out.
The ride down into Gatlinburg was like watching a time lapse of the seasons. The first mile or two didnt look much different. Cars had pulled over so families could play in the snow and the trees were still bare. Soon the snow disappeared. Then we could see buds on the trees. Then there were a few leaves on the trees. Then all the trees were in full bloom and there was green grass. Throughout the ride down, we saw fire damage all over. It was a big fire season last year.
On the way to town the shuttle driver let us know that we might have trouble finding a hotel room. There was a big cheerleading competition going on as well as a giant car show. He gave us dome tips where we might find one.
As soon as we were dropped off we realized we made a huge mistake. We heard Gatlinburg was touristy, but this was something completely different.
This was tourist HELL.
It was hot as hell too. The undulating mass of people on the sidewalk were in shorts and tee shirts. It was hard to believe we were only around 15 miles from where Stoat had the beginning stages of hypothermia the night before.
Almost all the hotels were booked solid. Including the one where we could have used Stoats hotel points. After walking to several hotels with no success we wound up going to the Super 8 the shuttle driver recommended. They only had a hot tub room with a king bed available and it was $300 for two nights. We were not happy about it but we took the room anyway.
The room at least had a fire place which we used to dry our clothes. We would have dried our clothes at the local laundry mat, except there wasn’t any in town! We wound up washing our clothes in the tub.
We took a walk around town to find something to eat. Among the wax museums, fudge shops, knickknack shops, and a 7D theater ( Apparently light, wind, water and sound are dimensions now) we found a place to eat.
Stoat really didn’t like being in Gatlingburg. Neither did I. The contrast between the AT and Gatlingburg had been too jarring.
The rest of the day was spent in the hotel room relaxing and washing our clothes. We went out one more time to get dinner then we called it a day.
“That feeling you get when you go from scrunching your nose at the sight of the possibly sketchy hotel hot tub, to getting in it and all of the sudden there is no past, no future, just muscle relaxing zen….” – My post on Facebook 4/7/17
NOC to Newfound Gap