Martin Steel

Days 32 to 38: Gatlinburg to Hot Springs

Day 32: Icewater Spring Shelter

  • 3 miles
  • 16,671 steps
  • 156 floors

Getting out of Gatlinburg turned out to be fun, the shuttles were full and local taxi services weren’t answering the phone. We ended up with a mad taxi driver from Smoky Mountain Taxis who squeezed 6 of us in to a people carrier along with him and his passenger. He spent the entire journey making up completely unbelievable stories such as how he hiked the trail 6 times including turning around at the end and hiking back whilst the back suspension bottomed out every time we went over a bump.

A very short day of hiking at just 3 miles but it was all uphill and pretty hot. A downside of being in the Smokies is that you can only camp at official shelters so you end up having to pick milage based on their locations.

Day 33: Tri-Corner Knob Shelter

  • 12.1 miles
  • 32,241 steps
  • 294 floors

A great sunrise got the day off to a good start at Icewater Spring Shelter.

Sunrise at Icewater Spring Shelter

Then the highlight of the day was a great view only a mile or so in to the trail from a rocky outcrop called Charlie’s Bunion.

View from Charlie's Bunion

Day 34: Mt. Cammerer Lookout and Davenport Gap Shelter

  • 14.8 miles + 1.2 mile detour to Lookout
  • 38,675 steps
  • 225 floors

This was my final day of hiking in the smokies, I’m going to miss the great views from the mountains and hiking through the fir trees. I saw a deer shortly after leaving the shelter nibbling away at the side of the trail.

Deer just after Tri-Corner Knob Shelter

Butterfly on the way up Mount Cammerer trail

To make the day a touch longer I took a detour up to a fire lookout up on Mount Cammerer, it gave 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains - panorama on Flickr (they break my blog).

Fire Lookout tower at the summit of Mt. Cammerer

Views from Mt. Cammerer lookout tower

Then to end the day I camped with Cade and Reboot in the last shelter in the Smokies, just 1 mile from the boundary. It was a slightly odd experience as the shelter has a wire fence across the entrance and locking gate to keep bears out.

Day 35: Groundhog Creek Shelter

  • 10.5 miles
  • 31,620 steps
  • 352 floors

One mile into the day I left the Smokies, no more strict rules about were to camp or having to stay in a dirty shelter rather than your tent.

A few miles later I crossed Pigeon River and soon came to Standing Bear Farm hostel where Woobie and Link had spent the previous night at a party.

Pigeon River

Their shop operates on an honesty system and you just note down what you take and pay as you leave, I had one of the best frozen pizzas I’ve ever had (it’s amazing how basic food makes you happy after being stuck with camping food for days).

Spring is making a big difference to the trails appearance, today we came across this red flower nobody recognised.

More unknown flowers, this time on the way to Standing Bear Hostel

On leaving the hostel we had a steep climb of about 2,500 foot up Snowbird Mountain which has an FAA building on the summit and signs about it affecting passenger safety.

A FAA building if some sort on Snowbird Mountain

Day 36: Walnut Mountain Shelter

  • 13.1 miles
  • 32,055 steps
  • 405 floors

My first day of hiking in heavy rain, I’ve been pretty lucky with avoiding bad weather so far. It poured with rain for the first 7 or so miles until Roaring Creek Shelter where I stopped for lunch, while stopped it brightened up a bit so I carried on for another 5ish miles to the next shelter where I got my tent up just in time to avoid a thunderstorm. It then took 3 of us the best part of an hour to get a fire lit to dry things out.

Unfortunately with the heavy rain we missed out on the apparently spectacular views from Max Patch, however even with the rain it was pretty impressive.

Duchess taking in the view on Max Patch summit

Day 37: Hot Springs

  • 13.5 miles
  • 31,937 steps
  • 225 floors

A long day with a lot of downhill (about 3,000 foot), although this being the A.T. they made sure to put in some uphill bits too. Luckily we had some good motivation, a night in town were we could get beer and food. It started off pretty foggy, only finally burning off a couple of miles from town.

Mist adding a slightly spooky feeling to the woods coming down from Walnut Mountain Shelter

Our final bit of news as we entered town was that the mountains just the other side of town were on fire and the next 14 miles of trail are closed. It sounds like we’ll be making a detour.

Day 38: Day off in Hot Springs

A lazy day of doing nothing in Hot Springs including a soak in the hot springs the town is named after.

Heading down to the Spa we could see the smoke rising over the mountains from the forest fires and the helicopter with giant water dropping bucket came in to land just as we arrived.

Smoke rising from the forest fire north of Hot Springs

Fire fighting helicopter coming into land at Hot Springs Spa

Mileage so far: 274.