Today is the end of our third week on the trail, and it is a beautiful day. It is cloudy in the Smokies but should clear soon. After waking alone in our Grand Prix hotel room, we showered, dressed, finished packing our packs, and turned in the room key. We planned to meet RW with his father at the NOC at 8:30, which left us only about 20 minutes to consume the AYCE breakfast buffet at Bennett’s BBQ.
We enjoyed the breakfast and grabbed our packs to head over to the NOC for our shuttle back up to Clingman’s Dome. Tandem and I were prepared to only carry snacks, fluids, and maps/Smoky Mountain passes on our slack pack of the 7.7 miles from Clingman’s Dome to New Found Gap.
RW, Tandem, and I stepped out of his father’s SUV at the walk up path to Clingman’s Dome. There were 30 degree howling winds and a clearing sky. We walked up to the Clingman’s Dome spiral tower to take pictures before we started back on the trail northbound.
We made good time over the 7.7 miles, taking only two and a half hours to complete. This was a good time to break in my new boots. Early in the hike, I took a spill due to the length of the new size 14 boots and scrapped my right hand and arm and left leg. No clothing was damaged, but I had to stop the bleeding while continuing to hike.
When we arrived at Newfound Gap, we were greeted by a friendly couple from Florida providing trail magic for thru hikers. She made us all delicious baloney sandwiches and had chips, soda, water, apples, and assorted snacks. They also had supplies for packs, like first aid and camping needs. They were here in Gatlinburg for the week.
I was able to dress my cuts from their supply boxes and enjoyed a great lunch. Tandem and I rearranged our packs to adjust back from slack packing and to add the apples, Snickers, and honey buns to our food bags. RW was waiting for us to hike again, but we sent him on due to our delays. We took a picture at the NC/TN state line Smoky Mountain Park sign with our packs on, then said our goodbyes to the trail angels and thru hikers, like Wrong Way, relaxing there.
The first four of the next 10.6 miles to the Pecks Corner shelter are a popular hike for visitors to Charlies Bunion overlook rocks. We took a break there for pictures of each other on the rocks since the crowds were thinning. We trekked on for another 6.6 miles to the shelter, and I was making better time due to the new boots.
It was 19:00 when we arrived and were greeted by Dumpster. The shelter was full, so we set up our tent and hammock for the first time in the Smokies. There were about six other tents set up as well. We made Ramen and chicken for dinner by my tent, cleaned up, hung the bear bags, and turned in by 20:30. We plan to hike 13 miles tomorrow, after our longest day today — 18.3 miles. On Monday we will leave the Smokies.