Franklin, NC to Hot Springs, NC (4/8-4/22/21) Great Smoky Mountains National Park

165.5 miles – 274.9 cumulative miles

Just a heads up, I’ll probably be posting updates more sporadically like this, with not as much details. I feel like trying to write a daily update and worrying about this blog/journal takes away from the experience of being out here at times. Plus it uses up battery on my phone when I’m low on juice. For example I had no battery power in any of my electronics for part of the smokies, so definitely have no photos/videos/updates for that time. Just personal memories.

Pre-Smokies

Leaving Franklin, I did not feel good. Stayed up wayyy too late the night before having a bit too much fun with the other Hiker Trash (thru-hikers) in town. Somehow I still managed to clock out 11 miles. Honestly, looking back, 11 doesn’t even sound like that much mileage.

There were some super interesting Trail Angels offering up Trail Magic for all us hikers. One group, when I walked up to them, I thought I travelled back in time. They had come from Alabama to camp out for a weekend and feed all the hikers who came through. Trail Angels are the greatest people on trail.

Re-enacting the pre-1850’s

The trail can actually be quite scary at times, in terms of the terrain. Almost like one misstep and your either dying or breaking every bone in your body. But it gets your blood pumping and makes you feel alive. No place I’d rather be.

The Jump-Off

The mountain tops do get a bit windy sometime too.

Before making it to the Smokies you have to stop at Fontana Lake and Dam. When I arrived, I stopped in at the Marina to resupply on some much needed toilet paper. I was not about to enter the Smokies while having to ration out my TP. The owner actually used to live in Brookfield, WI about 10 minutes from where I grew up. While talking with the locals, a random hiker came up and asked if my friends and I wanted to hop on their rented pontoon boats for the afternoon. When an opportunity like this arises, there is only one appropriate answer. We ended up spending the afternoon drinking beers on the pontoon boats, swimming in the lake, and just behaving like the Hiker Trash we are. Looking back, it still feels like a dream.

And finally, of course, I got to cross the iconic Fontana Dam just before entering into the Smokies.

The Smokies

The Smokies were incredible. There were times where it felt like I was walking through a fairy tale. As if the seven dwarves were going to appear one day hiking and singing along the trail. Some of the most beautiful views of the trail so far as well. The shelters felt very rustic and original. The weather worked out super well for us. Everyone had been hyping up that there was gonna be snow and rain the entire time in the Smokies. We only got one morning of snow flurries that didn’t even stick to the ground. But the Smokies did kick my ass. My pack weighed the heaviest yet. I had to pack out 7 days of food, while hiking the most miles/day yet. The first two days were pretty much up for 30 miles. Not fun. But then everything else was pretty steady just hiking up on the ridge line. Water sources were far and few. And you usually had to hike down, what felt like a quarter mile, to get to them. Only to have to hike right back up to get back on the trail. Glad to be done with the Smokies, but sad to see them go.

Looking back at Fontana Lake while hiking up the Smokies
Not snow, but wild flowers blanketing the forest floor.
Smokey mornin in the Smokies!
Incoming snow
Minutes Later…
Not a bad spot for a pic
Same spot, better perspective

Towards the end of the Smokies, there was one shelter closed down due to bear activity. And in the smokies you can’t stealth camp (camp wherever you want), you have to stay in the shelters. So this left, a 14.6 mile stretch, where you could not camp, but had to hike through no matter where you were the night before. Myself and a few others decided to camp out in a lookout tower 0.6 miles off the AT instead (shh don’t tell anyone. I don’t think we were supposed to be there). This was one of the best views I had on all the trail. 360 views of the Smokies and the valleys below. We caught both the sunrise and sunset. Unfortunately for you all, my phone died when I arrived, and I had no juice left in my battery pack.

And my phone died….

Sadly enough, throughout the entire Smoky Mountains National Park, I did not see any bears.

Post-Smokies

I saw 4 black bears. One momma bear and her 3 cubs. Literally hours after leaving the Smokies. I was so happy and excited. I can check that one off the list for AT goals. Not the best videos, but the cutest little cubbies.

Cub standing on the log, while momma is walking up

When I arrived at Mack’s Patch (grassy bald with beautiful 360 views) there was a growing group of hikers camping out there. It was starting to look like a music festival. I set up and prepared for a beautiful sunset and sunrise which did not disappoint.

Sunset
Sunrise

Craziest part was, a pack of raccoons stole 10 people’s food bags in the middle of the night and nobody knew until the following morning. Some bags were found, with torn up food, nothing salvageable. Some bags were not found. Luckily, my bag was untouched.

5 thoughts on “Franklin, NC to Hot Springs, NC (4/8-4/22/21) Great Smoky Mountains National Park

  1. Seany – Thank you for all the beautiful photos! Looks like a blast! You’re more than 10% to Maine! Yay! L, AG

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  2. You are becoming a true southerner when you call yourself Hiker Trash. I love the pictures and your blog.
    Wish I could be there with you but will live vicariously through you😘😘

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  3. Yipes, Seany! What an amazing trip!! I feel like I’m right there with you and enjoying every minute without ever getting up off the couch! The bears might unnerve me a little bit and not so crazy about being low on TP but the rest sounds so incredible. I’m so glad you have this opportunity! Keep on keeping on!

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  4. WOW, hadn’t heard from you in awhile; had to check with Aunt Regina to see if she knew anything. Unbelievable pics, still wish I had knees & a back that coudl do the hike but… So great to hear you are having fun and enjoying the trek. Keep your head up & while passing thru CT don’t forget if you need stuff let me know…maybe I’ll hike it up to you. Peace and Love….

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  5. Back to follow you after a ling while!
    Reminded me the sunset/rise and bear watching on our first trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton end of this May…

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