May 22nd 2018
Double Spring Gap shelter – Pecks Corner Shelter (mile 217.8)
21.4 miles
Total miles: 227

Feeling very grateful for Aleve PM. Popped another one tonight and only woke up a couple of times. I may have spent too much time on my left hand side because my shoulder and hip was really sore. It rained pretty much all night and it was still raining this morning. It definitely sounded worse in the shelter on the metal roof, but outside was just drizzle. 

We had no problems with bears in the night and the bear burritos were still alive. I really faffed about this morning and I was delaying going outside, it was still cold and I wasn’t keen on getting wet. Eventually I made it out and said goodbye to everyone. It was a nice group we had last night, 12 guys and only 3 women, all American except me.


The first challenge of the day was the climb up to Clingmans Dome. At 6612ft it’s the highest point on the Appalachian Trail. The climb wasn’t as bad as I was expecting it to be, but I was having trouble regulating my body temperature. I was too hot as I was climbing and then I would get too cold and I would put my jacket back on, then I would take it off again. My zip went up and down, my jacket came off and on, my umbrella went up and down. So it was a slow progress. I met a guy coming south and he started yesterday at Clingmans Dome, and instead of hiking south, he hiked north! He ended up having to camp at the closed shelter. Not that he needed to worry about the bears because it seemed they were all around our shelter. 

The cloud was all around. The wind was blowing it straight across the ridge. I reached Clingmans Dome and at the time I didn’t realise it was the official 200 mile mark and I forgot it was he highest point. All I was thinking about was that there was no point going up the tower because there were zero views, so I didn’t bother going up the tower. 


I made my way back down the other side, and just a short way down I was overwhelmed with tears. I really don’t know where they came from, it was like they just sprang up and hit me on the back of the head. I cried. I think it was a combination of being really physically tired and having some major first world problems. I hadn’t had cell service for 4 days now and I was convinced there would be connection at the top of the mountain. There wasn’t. I was really frustrated because I wanted to make sure everything was ok at home. 


I had my own little pity party for a few minutes and then I pulled myself together and concentrated on getting down the slippery rocky side of the mountain. The trail was quite amazing today, it was all mossy with an enchanted vibe to it. It was different to what we had been going through and it made a welcome change. And the rain changes the quality of the forest, it makes it more mystical. 


The only thing is that gaining any kind of downhill speed is impossible because everything is so slippy, especially the rocks, so it was slow going. The trail continued to go up and down in the way the AT does, and the rain sprinkled on and off and eventually I made it to Newfound Gap. It is a major parking area / tourist trap. There were hundreds of people milling about, taking pictures of non-existent views. I crossed the road and I was surprised to see the sign for the North Carolina Tennessee state line. So I guess this means I’m now in Tennessee! If I remember correctly the trail follows the border between Tennessee and North Carolina for a while. 

I asked someone to take my picture and I didn’t have time to think about doing anything creative. I set my pack down and got rid of my trash which is always nice to do. I didn’t bother with visiting the toilets because I was clearly still really dehydrated and didn’t need to go. 


About 5 different people came up to me and asked if I was a thru-hiker. I felt a little bit like an attraction at the zoo. I am getting quite bored now of people telling me that I missed The Wedding. My standard response is now ‘ I wasn’t invited’. I need Catwater here, her Alaskanness would distract people from my Britishness. 

I didn’t stay long as time was ticking and I still had a whole bunch of miles left to hike, plus I wanted to get away from all these people. I hadn’t managed to get any trail magic out of any of them! 

I hiked on and it was a bit of a climb up and away from Newfound Gap, there were a whole bunch of day hikers out and I must have seen around 50 people. The weather was clearing up a bit and I even managed to get a few views, and I took off my trash bag rain skirt and hiked normally in the sun for an hour or so, getting a bit of a sweat on. I was still moving slowly and finally at one point I managed to get some mobile signal. Full bars then a moment later no service. So frustrating. I managed to update the Instagram, that way everyone knows I’m still alive. 


The trail was fairly mellow and apart from the rocks it was relatively easy walking. I just kept faffing around which was making me slow and I feared I wouldn’t arrive at the shelter until about 8pm. With about 4 miles left to go, the weather turned and the cloud started to roll in. I could hear big rumbles of thunder and I thought uh-oh. The rain held off until I was about 2 miles away, then it was trash bag on umbrella up. It was coming down quite hard and blowing in from the side. I pulled the top of the trash bag up so it was more of a dress now. It did the job. 


It was a 21 mile day to get to the junction, then the shelter is .4 side trail downhill. Which means an extra .4 of uphill in the morning. Side trails are annoying but in this instance there was nothing else I could have done, other than end my day at 2pm at the shelter before. I was so glad to get to the shelter, and it was only 6pm which was much earlier than I thought I would get there. 

My first task was to eat. I had limited snacks today and I had eaten them all by midday. I didn’t stop for much because there wasn’t really anywhere to stop and it was wet and miserable. So I had my chicken tortilla ramen – won’t be buying that flavour again – and I ate some crisps. I looked enviously at the mountain house lasagne some other people were eating. 


The water is a .1 side trail, more bonus miles! And the privy is quite far away too! There are 5 other people here tonight and we all sat around and chatted, apart from one guy who was already in bed when I got there. He was snoring by 7pm. 

I did all my chores, set up my bed, got water, went to the privy, hung my food, and then it was 8pm and time to lie down. It was cold tonight and I got my main puffy out for the second time this trip. A couple of the guys said they saw a bear on the side of the hill as they were walking to the privy but at about 8:30pm the rain began to chuck it down again so, ya know, that’ll keep the bears away! 


I popped an Aleve PM but as I lie here I can feel the pain pulsing through my lower legs. 

Watch the video!

For this trip I made a daily video diary which you can watch here: DAY 14