Day 19: GSMNP Day 3 – Milestones

Day 19

Derrick Knob Shelter to Mount Collins Shelter

Miles Hiked: 13

AT Milage: 202.8

Today I hit the trail before anyone else from the shelter a tiny bit after 7am. The weather was supposed to be miserable, so I wanted to get as many miles in as I could before the downpour started. I was going pretty fast and didn’t stop until I got about 7 miles away from camp. The only reason I stopped was because I knew my feet were wrecked from not stopping yesterday. I just sat down at a bench for ten minutes to rest my feet and ate a granola bar. The weather continued to stay beautiful, but I knew it was only a matter of time. I decided I wanted to make to it Clingman’s Dome before noon.

Clingman’s Dome is the highest point on the AT at an elevation of . It is also the 200 mile marker for Northbound (NOBO) hikers. The trail between Siler’s Bald Shelter and Clingman’s Dome was the most beautiful section I have seen yet. The forrest is old growth and it looks like a human hasn’t touched it in a hundred years. I tried to take many pictures but none of the pictures I ever take out here can capture the trail’s beauty even slightly. Not only did the trail look stunning, but the smell of fresh pine and wildflowers wafted into the air as well. I was wishing I could make a candle to smell just like it. Flamingo caught up to me when I was three miles from the top of Clingman’s Dome.

When I got closer to the high point, I started passing many day hikers. As I finally reached the top I was blown away by the amount of tourists mulling around the place. It was really disappointing and jarring. I hadn’t been around this many people since I started the trail by myself. People were looking at Flamingo and myself like we were animals at the zoo on display. Flamingo said he saw people sneaking taking pictures of him out of the corner of his eye. I walked up to the top of the observation tower with my pack on but there were so many people I couldn’t stand to be up there. I took some pictures, but there were just way too many people to get good ones. When I came back down from the tower I ate a quick snack and Flamingo suggested that we take off to the shelter since we didn’t enjoy the people and the down pour was over due. I was originally going to hike my first 20 miler today, until I got word from another hiker that an unfortunate group of people would be camping at my 20 mile marker. Apparently it is an outdoor club from Nashville who is out for a section and has reserved almost the whole shelter. This thru hiker (Kyle) stayed with them the night before and was treated pretty poorly since the club acted like they owned the whole campsite. Kyle is getting off trail for a month at Clingman’s Dome and then hiking southbound (SOBO) from Katahdin. The type of thru hike is called a flip flop. I really hope to run into him in New York while he is going SOBO.

Something else about today that I found interesting was the amount of scents I could smell. First it was the forest and then the tourists. I, and the other thru hikers were talking about how we could smell the tourist’s laundry detergents and specific scented lotions, perfumes, or oils they wore. Flamingo explained to me about how when you are in the woods or nature for an extended amount of time you can gain a heightened sense of smell. I haven’t been out here that long, but I fully believe it. I have been able to smell the forrest and flowers a lot more lately than I haven in the past and the unnatural scents I got from the tourists surprised me. I never noticed these smells in my daily life. It is also ironic that I smell worse than ever at a time when I am gaining a better sense of smells. I know that I smell bad and I get whiffs of it and cringe, but at the same time I’m getting pretty used to it. We all smell out here but we can’t smell each other.

Flamingo and I were booking it the last three miles to the shelter as fast as we could. We wanted a spot bad and hoped it would be empty enough that we would not get kicked out. Luckily enough it was empty and shortly after we arrived it started raining like crazy. We felt bad for our friends who were caught in the rain miles behind us. After the rain died down we ventured out to find the water source. We were laughing about how we had to filter water even in the rain. It took us about half an hour. For some reason when water is pouring down from the sky, simple tasks on trail are two times harder to perform. When we made it back to the shelter Locks, Cocoa, her dad, and two other thru hikers came in soaking wet.

At the shelter everyone just made dinner and hung out. Ethan got a fire going in the fireplace with wet wood which was great. I sat by it to warm up for a while before I fell asleep.

Happy Trails!

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