Day 18: Derrick Knob to Gatlinburg, TN
Trip Start Mar 15, 2010
134Trip End Jul 23, 2010
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Did you know that the highest point on the AT is Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mtn National Park? It is NOT the tallest mtn in the eastern US, that award goes to Mt Mitchell in North Carolina.
Today was rough, we got up to a beautiful morning and hit the trail at 8:45. We were clipping along at 3 mph until we hit the approach for Clingmans Dome, highest point on the AT (and a full 1000ft higher than the previous high (Thunderhead mtn)
The trail was immediately covered with thick snow. Mostly it was packed down and frozen but it was hard climbing since every step up resulted in slipping a bunch backwards (like climbing a sand dune!)
Our pace slackened a lot and we didn't summit until about 2:30
After lunch we had to descend which was the really enjoyable part, snow packed trail 3-6 ft deep, and since it had been melting the pack was weakened. Every step had the potential to "post hole" down to your waist. Fortunately we each only fell around ten times and no injuries. It would be easy to jam a foot and break a leg. Where the snow had been exposed to sun, it had really melted and then water was all pooled up to depths of 6 inches or more. Stepped in a few of those and my boots are absolutely soaked. The repair job on the soles is already coming undone... I'll prolly switch to tennis shoes once out of the snow.
It took us until nearly half seven to arrive at Newfound Gap (18 miles is my greatest distance so far) we are now over 200 miles in and less than 2000 to go!
My dad was going to try to pick me up at the gap, but he was running late, so we got a ride with the dad of "Thin Mint" another thruhiker. I hung out with Willard until dad arrived at Gatlinburg
Hope you all are well. Waiting on mom, Andrea, Marie, and Colin to get in. I'm trying to stay awake... Hiker midnight is 9pm and it's passed 1am. Zzzzzzzz