Today we woke after most of the Russell Field shelter dwellers had moved out. We packed up quickly, downed a cold breakfast, and were on the trail by 8:45 to start our slow climb toward Clingman’s Dome. When we reached the top of Thunderhead Mountain, we met Laguna and Magic Man. It was a great place for a 360 degree picture. On the way down we passed the 2000 mile SOBO marker, which meant that we’d now come 185 miles on the trail.
We stopped soon after that for water at mile 5.4 on our day and had an early lunch. We continued on the trail, crossing the NC/TN state lines, and rolling up and down in the mud from the melting snow and over many rocks, which made the downhills slower. We finally arrived at Silers Bald shelter around 17:30, after 14.7 miles.
We had dinner of rice and chicken on tortilla shells, which was Tandem’s idea.
It was a tiring day, and my feet are suffering from my boots. Tomorrow we will hike 4.8 miles then go into Gatlinburg for a foot and boot check. Bennett also needs aloe for her sunburn. It will be good to take a day and a half off to recover.
Everyone in the Silers Bald shelter woke knowing they were headed for the top of Clingman’s Dome. Some were hiking past, but most were stopping in Gatlinburg for neros or zeros. We are doing both.
We hustled out of the shelter and hiked up 1200 feet to the Clingman’s Dome parking lot. We got lucky and were spotted by RW from his father’s SUV. They were leaving the parking lot and asked if we were going into Gatlinburg, then offered us a ride. Bragen was already in the back seat, so we loaded in beside him for the nine mile ride down into town.
We stopped at Gatlinburg’s Nantahala Outdoor Center to see if our box of food from home had arrived. It hadn’t, but we checked out the hiker box for supplies and found a fuel canister with a little gas left in it. Our current canister is stuck permanently open, so the stove has to stay on it to keep the fuel from leaking. We took the partial canister as backup.
I checked out the price of new boots, and then we ran into a number of thru hikers, including Bison and Kozi. They were preparing to head back to the trail, but when they saw that we had caught up with them, they decided to stay another night. We offered to share our room at the Grand Prix hotel, so we all checked in and unpacked.
Eight of us went out on the town later, starting with a wine tasting at Sugarland Cellars. Then we moved on to the Smoky Mountain Brewery where five of us participated in an eight-beer flight sampling. By that point, we were ready to eat. Everyone agreed on pizza, so I looked up the best pizza in Gatlinburg, which was supposedly down the street at the Best Italian Cafe & Pizzeria.
We arrived and crammed eight of us in a booth meant for six. We split two large pizzas while one of the Germans had a 12-inch vegetarian pizza with mushrooms. After dinner, we went in search of moonshine samples. The two Germans headed back to the hotel to pack for the next day. I didn’t have any moonshine, but did have a great time talking to the increasingly intoxicated thru hikers. I also handled explaining AT thru hiking to non-hikers who came up to talk to us about it.
I left the merriment and headed back to the hotel, finding a geocache and picking up a pint of ice cream on the way back. After finishing the ice cream, I dozed off, leaving the door unlocked. Tandem, Bison, and Kozi came back later without waking me. It was a great nero day back in Gatlinburg.