Surprises and Un-surprises offered up by the Smoky Mountains

My mom used to sing a song ON TOP OF OLD SMOKY, ALL COVERED IN SNOW which didn’t scare me at all. But from day 1 on the AT things were said around me which made the Smokies sound intimidating:

Dogs can be on the AT but not in the Smokies. Remember to get your permits and have them ready in the Smokies. Even bear vaults need to be hung in the Smokies. The highest point of the trail is on the Smokies. Hikers were evacuated from the Smokies due to extreme weather conditions. Spring water must be boiled when in the Smokies. Your permit is for 8 days, get in, move fast, get out….

I was nervous and not looking forward to this stretch. We entered the Smoky Mountain Reserve around 10am yesterday and dropped the top part of our permits into the registration box. In for a penny in for a pound. Didn’t take long before a ridge runner asked to see the part of the permit we were suppose to carry with us. They mean business here.

And then we proceeded to fly up the mountain. There was nothing to it. It was not that much different to the other mountains we walked over. The Drakensberg can pack a better punch. This is a breeze. What a surprise. A pleasant surprise. After 26km and a 1665m ascent we felt quite chuffed with ourselves.

Arriving at camp there was a grass patch looking as if trampled by elephants. Problem: no elephants here. Trevor and I looked at each other and refused to say what we thought….

I spoke to a woman today who told me she saw 3 bears this morning when she was leaving the same shelter, about 50m off the path (lucky, the poster at the entry gate said don’t get within 15m of a bear 😀). And then Eben (who tracks where we are on our cell phone location) sent us this photo taken at the shelter last year.

Definitely wasn’t the elephants!

After a freezing cold night we tackled day 2 in the Smokies. Within the first kilometer we saw a bunny hopping over the path, it was sweet but must have been the easter bunny returning home as no sign of easter eggs. Easter Monday, Easter Bunny, no Easter Eggs. Damn.

And then the pleasant surprise of yesterday became undone, hour by hour over the course of the day. Walking was tough. The climbs were challenging. The path muddy and often blocked by huge fallen trees. The Smokies deserves respect. It is NOT just like any other Mountain. It is the Smokies. Most visited national park in the States for a reason. Not just a walk in the park.

Our energy levels today were not nearly as good as it was the day before – that steak from the night before must have fuelled us (yes Nina and Philip, we now see the value of good quality protein, can you send as some Kobe Beef please 😀).

I have to look at our nutrition – there is a direct correlation between our calory intake and our strength on the trail and I think we need to up our intake. Just not easy when you have only that much space to fit in 3 to 4 days food.

Another observation tower seen yesterday:

Hope everybody had some Lindt Bunnies today. Good luck for back-to-work.


4 thoughts on “Surprises and Un-surprises offered up by the Smoky Mountains

  1. Wow! This AT is tough! Sounds like you two are doing amazingly well and seeing all the good things in the walk, while overcoming the not so good. Andrew finished Oceans 56 comfortably but slowly, and I got to Vishoek at 21.1k before hopping on the sweeper van. The whole thing was wonderful and I’m glad I got to be part of it. Good luck with the Smokies!


  2. Did indeed have Lindt bunnies! Did you get any trail magic Easter chocolates (I guess that will be more frequent when trail is close to urban areas)? Hopefully the weather clears up a bit and theres less mud to go through, looks like maybe some rain there on Friday. But you guys are making solid progress through, keep it up 🙂 Looks like another 70-ish km’s through the national park from where you were last night.


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