Well Mom came and picked us up this morning and I am really thinking I made the wrong decision. It is a really beautiful day and I think I have enough warm stuff to survive the cold nights. I like challenges and I knew this would would be a challenge. Now the hike is over and I feel like a failure. I did a lot of planning and prep for this trip.
I know I made the decision to come off the trail, but no one is supportive about me hiking, especially alone. Well you know what shit happens every day and if it’s your time to go it’s your time to go nothing you can do about it. I would rather be happy hiking than riding home from the trail feeling like a failure. I mean I have beat Lupus, I am an Ironman, I am strong and I like challenges. A little physical exertion just make me feel right (I know so strange in today’s world with lazy, over weight, junk food eating and sick people). I know people love me and just want me to be safe so why not teach me how to be safe in the elements rather than shelter me. A sheltered me is not a happy me.
After getting back to the vacation rental having cried all the way, I was really depressed. It is so beautiful outside. Then Jim comes to my rescue and offers to take me back to the trail. I think I gave him the biggest smile ever.So we add some extra warm layers to my gear and head back to the trail. He dropped me off back at the Fontana Dam and we both walk across the dam together then I hit the trail alone.
I am officially in the Smoky Mountains. To camp in the Smokies one must have a permit. So I drop off my permit and away I go.
Lions and tigers and BEARS oh my. OH SHIT there is a BEAR in the middle of the trail!!! It looks like he is eating nuts that have dropped from the trees. There are lots of walnut trees lining the trail. I kept some distance so the pictures are not that great. You will have to ask me to see the video on my phone. I yelled to the bear to let him know I was here. He doesn’t acknowledge me. I banged my trekking poles together and on rocks, but he just kept eating and didn’t pay any attention to me. It wasn’t until I stomped my feet on the ground that he finally gave me a glance, but just continues eating. I have such a high now watching him eating, seeing him in his natural environment and not behind bars at a zoo. I am not scared at all, I’m thrilled! I continue to follow him up the trail and when he moves about 20 yards off the trail I just walk right by him.
I am so happy right now it is beautiful outside. I am making my way up the trail all by myself. I am not just following Jim. I am doing it myself. Another first for me. I feel strong, I am making good time, my pack is very comfortable since I am carrying all the gear that Jim and I split up.
I make it to the shelter at 7:30 and there is already a campfire going. I am glad to see that since it is supposed to get cold tonight. I get settled into the shelter blowing up my sleeping pad and spreading out my sleeping bag. This is my first time staying at a shelter. In the Smoky Mountains you are required to stay at a shelter to minimize the environmental impact camping has on the environment. I cook and eat my dinner. Tonight it was spaghetti made with spaghetti squash rather than pasta since I don’t eat wheat. After dinner I hang my food bag on the bear cables. This is also a first for me and I did it all by myself without having to ask one of the guys at camp for help. The bear cables are provided at all the shelters. They raise your food or anything with a smell in the air so bears can’t get to it. It is actually a practice to protect the bears not humans. The rest of the evening is spent enjoying the campfire and the company of other hikers.