Mile 192.2-207.1 (14.9 miles)
It's wet but not actually raining when we get up. It's a short ways to the Siler Bald shelter where we stop to get water. I try chatting with folks but everyone is a little preoccupied and I get pretty much nowhere. This morning is the first time I'm actually chilly on the trail and I want to start hiking but a quick downpour rolls in and we take advantage of the now empty shelter to at least stay drier for a bit. Jumping jacks and push-ups are always a win.
About halfway into the hike our steady climb pays off and we make it to Clingmans Dome, the views are obviously fabulous today.
The highest point on the whole trail, 6643 ft.
I run to the top enjoy the 5 ft of visibility and run back down trying to stay warm. It's about 7 miles to Newfound Gap where we hitch to Gatlinburg. Rest Stop feels no need to slog down the creek masquerading as a trail and we agree to meet at the gap.
I head down the trail, i.e. rocky creek, but it's warmer and there's plenty of water to drink.
The rocky trail gets a little less rocky and it's so green, love it.
Alone my mind wanders and I see shapes in everything. It's solid grey so clouds are out but this log is pretty dragon like if you ask me. I pass people but it's quick, everyone seems wrapped up in their own heads.
I'm getting so close, I can hear the road and I'm finally seeing a little bit of the mountains. Woohoo sun!
Newfound gap is full of tourists and I immediately see Rest Stop and before I can even use the restroom I'm told we have a ride.
Exciting yes, did it turn into a bit of a disaster? Absolutely. But hey at least my sketchiest hitch isn't solo. The guy who offered us a ride leads us to a car, we throw out stuff in the trunk (mistake 1) and are surprised as another very sketchy looking dude pops out of the drivers seat. As we get into the car our driver explains to us that if we get pulled over please call him Joe and make sure you say he's from Florida. Bad sign number 2, as we leave the parking lot we turn toward the town of Cherokee not Gatlinburg. Bad sign 3, It's quickly explained that it's all good we just have to drop the first guy off in Cherokee then we can go to Gatlinburg. I'm nervous as heck but let the guys talk.
It's beautiful but being off kilter and still desperately having to use the restroom I'm not happy. We drop the guy off after hearing what sounds like a steady stream of completely off the wall lies about his life and start heading back to newfound gap. We then find out the dudes don't even know each other, our driver is some kind of sketchy taxi and picked our passenger up from jail that morning. It's all sorts of weird mumbo jumbo and oh well actually maybe I can't drop you in town because I can't actually enter town. Begging to use the restroom we pop out at the Gap and say never mind sir, good luck and yes please please go pick up your next fare better down the road. I gladly wave goodbye to our meth mouthed driver and grumpily collapse back at the Gap. It's drizzly and I feel exhausted but overall we only lost an hour and none of our belongings so that's a win.
Within 15 minutes a very nice lady from Cherokee, her niece and their 6 month old chihuahua puppy drive us to the pigeon forge/Gatlinburg intersection making up for our weird first attempt. It's maybe a mile along the Gatlinburg River Trail before we find ourselves in the overly commercialized tourist trap that is Gatlinburg. Coffee, pizza and some people watching make it all a bit better but the hotel room is the best. The weather is not looking good and we figure we'll take tomorrow off to do errands and take a rest. At this moment with soaking wet feet I'm plenty happy tucking into bed and passing out.
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