3/31/15 – Ice Water Shelter – 7 miles
We decided to risk it and head into Gatlinburg for food and a mental break after the last two big mile days. I was against this idea at first but my love of both Gatlinburg and pizza over took my better judgment. The four miles we had in the morning was nothing but smooth trail as Darwin, Cider and I talked about board games. We hit Newfound Gap and found the trail magic that we had heard about the day before. A couple on their anniversary was set up in the parking lot with tons of ready to eat food and enough packaged items to fully resupply on. I immediately scarfed down a donut and chugged chocolate milk. I then headed back for the best egg salad sandwich I’ve ever had and a brick of a brownie. The couple providing the trail magic had never hiked the trail nor had the desire to do so but simply loved hikers and the stories they shared. They had been providing trail magic for the last four years.
After visiting and more eating, we got a hitch from a trail runner that literally ran by us. He was vacationing with is family in Gatlinburg for the week and had came up to the gap to run a few trails. His hotel was perfectly located right across from yet another NOC. At the NOC we signed the same trail log Darwin and I had looked over on our vacation in October. It was very surreal to now be standing in the same spot as a hiker.
We mellowed out at Mellow Mushroom and I drank my first full bottle of beer. I have never tried a beer that I really liked but that bottle of Blue Moon tasted like heaven. With full bellies, we headed back over to the NOC for hobo showers. Only Cruise Control was smart enough to have actually hiked with a travel towel. The rest of use resorted to drying off with paper towels and dirty clothes. We laid out on the lawn of the NOC to dry ourselves and clothes we attempted to clean in the shower. At this point in our hike we have become accustomed to the looks we get from those other clean smelling people.
We split into small groups and attempted to start hitching back to the trail. You would think this would be easy but many tourists are not aware of the trail. They only see hikers as dirty murders looking for their next victim. Roub and Cider got a ride first from two ladies in a red convertible. We could only guess that they mistook Roub for a woman due to his kilt. Five and Cruise Control were next thanks to Cruise’s long blond locks, leaving Darwin and I. We had attempted hitches before all of them. I had a feeling our bad luck was due to my not so feminine hiker look. A girl will always get a hitch before a guy. I took a mental note that I needed to purchase a blond wig in the next town. After several false pull offs for picture opportunities, what seemed like hundreds of cars full of people waving and a few shouting obscenities at us, a car finally pulled over after a hour.
I ran up to the car first and dunked in the window to see a young girl about eighteen or nineteen. She looked scared to death. She asked Darwin and I for our ids and after inspecting them, asked if we had any criminal records. We confessed our sins of speeding tickets only to be asked if we had any weapons. We explained guns were to heavy to carry but we did have pocketknives. She of course asked for them and being so desperate to get back on trail, we handed them over. She still seemed very weary of us. I could see her start to reconsider her decision to pick us up so I offered up the only extra weight I had on me besides food and gear; five bucks and my birth control pills. She accepted the five bucks and thankfully let me keep my pills and we were finally allowed in her car. She then asked us if she could get arrested for picking us up and we assured her if she wouldn’t tell we wouldn’t. By the time we made it back to the gap we had become fast friends with this young woman. We shared stories of the trail and she shared her dreams of the future. She of course admitted she had never picked up a hitchhiker and we acted surprised to hear this. At the gap she returned our knives and we took a quick picture together hopefully leaving a good hiker impression on her.
Back on trail we hiked our last three miles of the day powered up with pizza and full of laughs. We arrived at the shelter to cheers from our tramily and each shared the stories of our hitches. We devoured the town food we hiked out and settled in with an amazing view of the mountains and dreams of our upcoming zero day in Hot Springs. Another amazing day on the trail!