Written by: Katherine "Ringleader" Imp
The day we hiked to Gatlinburg I hitchhiked 5 times.
We woke up in a shelter in the Smokies, about 12 miles from the road that brings you to Gatlinburg. I got out of my warm sleeping bag to find everything covered in snow and frost. We began the walk to Clingman's Dome, the highest peak on the AT. The snow was gorgeous and picturesque, but every step was unknown. I'd step forward onto the snow, and suddenly fall 3 feet. Then the sun came out. When the snow melted it seemed to come at you from every angle. I was cold and wet but my adrenalin was pumping.
Emily, Brandon, and I do not hike at the same pace so when I hit a fork in the trail up to Clingman's I took a left. I went up a ways but couldn't find a trail because of all the snow. I yelled for Brandon and Emily but got no response. I was on top of a mountain in the Smokies, a mountain covered with snow, and I had no idea where I was or where my companions were. Talk about an "Into the Wild" moment.
I decided to backtrack to the fork, and apparently Brandon and Emily had the same thought. We met up and continued the hike, but because of the snow the miles were slow. When we hit a road later on down the trail, we decided to flag down a construction worker for fear that we'd otherwise not make it to Gatlinburg before dark.
We got in the back of the truck and he drove us to his construction site a few miles down the road. We thanked him and kept walking until another truck passed by. Again, we ran after it, and the friendly workers offered to take us to Newfound Gap, the place where tourists from Gatlinburg tend to go.
We got out of the truck and for the first time in weeks we were surrounded by people. Everything was a blur. Tourists came up to us, asking questions as if we were a tourist attraction. Next thing we knew, a nice couple was offering to take us 15 miles down the road to Gatlinburg. We got to town and were immediately surrounded by lights, and Ripley's Believe It or Not, and taffy, and tourists with fanny packs.
Emily and I went to the gas station to ask about the post office and the man behind the register offered to take us across town to safe us from having to take the trolley. He told us about his life. He's a cousin of Dolly Parton.
After the post office we crossed the street to the grocery store and bought enough fresh vegetables for a feast. We stood outside the store, not sure how we were going to get back to the hotel when a nice couple offered to bring us back. We talked about hippie festivals, and tourist towns, and the Appalachian Trail, and their kids.
The day started with us snowshoe-ing without snowshoes and by the time the day was over I'd stood on the highest peak on the AT, jumped into 5 different vehicles, and heard the stories of all the people that were kind enough to stop for us.
At the hotel I cracked open a beer, laughed with my fellow thru-hikers, and dreamt about what new adventures were coming my way. What an amazing day.