When I heard Piddling Around piddling around at daybreak, I felt it OK to begin packing up even though most of my shelter mates were still asleep. I quickly readied myself for a short 10.8 mile day to Newfound Gap where church friends Bennett and Lynda Massey would be waiting to treat me to a night in a luxurious condo in Sevierville, TN. The thoughts of a hot shower and “real” food inspired me to get on up the trail quickly.
The trail from Double Springs shelter began with a walk through a canopy of evergreen trees. The scent reminded me of Christmas while the scene brought back recollections of the forest in “The Wizard of Oz” where the scarecrow keeps repeating, “lions and tigers and bears, oh my.” I knew I didn’t have to worry about any lions or tigers……I’m still waiting to see my first bear on this trip. I had my camera handy all day, just in case.
Within a mile Piddling Around caught up with me, so we hiked together for a large part of the day. I also hiked for a while in the afternoon with Cabo, a hiker about my age that I had met for the first time last night at the shelter. We took turns leading over the icy slush which still did not make negotiating the trail any easier. I fell three times on the ice today. That ups my total of falls now to five. And in addition to the falls, I also literally skied down one section for about ten yards before coming to a stop still standing. How? I don’t know. I suppose there’s no harm in ski blazing. If not for my trekking poles, I’m not sure I would have ever made it down from Clingman’s Dome. Since the observation tower was fogged in when we passed, we chose not to climb the half mile trail to the tallest point in TN. After all, my top elevation today was over 6500 feet.
After I finally reached an elevation where the trail wasn’t quite so icy, I made good time hiking on to Newfound Gap. As has been the custom every day for about the last week, at some time during the day Grinch and Kermit pass me. So with about two miles remaining in today’s hike they zipped by. I actually hiked with them for a few minutes before they pulled away. I’m looking forward to seeing more of the two young men up the trail.
With about 300 yards until reaching Newfound Gap, I looked up rounding a bend and Bennett and Lynda were walking toward me. They were the first familiar faces I had seen since starting the hike over two weeks ago. When we got to their truck in the parking lot, they had a cold soda ready and even stopped for me to get a burger on the way to the condo in Sevierville, TN. By far, these are the beat accommodations I’ve had thus far. Now they are about to take me out for dinner, so I’m hoping all this town food will lead to a strong day tomorrow when I continue the Smokies on the Appalachian Trail.