Monday–April 19, 2021
Location–Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Siler’s Bald Shelter, AT Mile 195.5
Flat spots are few and far between on these rugged mountain slopes, but I was able to find a reasonably flat place here next to the horse hitching rail at Russell Field Shelter (there’s no longer a field here, just a long neglected briar patch). My shoes strategically placed under the downhill side of my Therm-a-Rest pad and I was all set for a comfortable no-roll-off night’s sleep.
Six-thirty this morning, Barry wakes me, “Here’s your food bag,” he says. Here in the park, food bags must be hung from cables and pulleys park rangers have strung high up in the trees–to discourage bears from making unscheduled night visits. A peanut butter sandwich, some cookies and an energy bar and I’m good till lunch.
Rugged mountains mean rugged trail. Plenty of up and down rocks and roots. Without hiking sticks to brace and lift me, it’d be hand-over-hand ups and butt-skid downs in places. The Vibram Army (plus horse traffic) have left an indelible mark on what used to be (35 years ago) pleasant, friendly trail. The trail is nearly impassable, some sections. As a result, horse traffic is no longer permitted. Ma Nature has placed roots in certain places to aid hikers during their up-scrambles. Unmercifully slow, dangerous going in many places along today; one slip and this odyssey is all over.
I’ve a bit of a cell signal this morning, enough to make a call to Kenny at his Front Porch Radio Show in Alex City. Nathan was been invited to be on again and they had me call in. Always fun talking to Kenny, this morning especially–it was a hoot; thanks fellas! (listen here- our segment starts at 1:30 in)
We’re in and above the local cloud clutter this morning (over 5,000 feet above sea level), but it burns off by early afternoon–yet the day remains cold from the updrafts along these high, exposed ridges.
“Seen any bear?” a southbounder asks as he passes. “No, but watch where you’re stepping up ahead!” my reply.
More high-mountain vistas today, especially from Rocky Top, which stands well above 5,000 feet. Just past, the next high rock outcropping, I remember seeing names chiseled in stone–dated to the late 1700s (early graffiti). Not a very good photo, but you can see one of the names that have been chiseled there.
We stop for a short rest (and water) at Spence Field before
moving on through the rocks and roots to Siler’s Bald Shelter. We arrive late evening; a long, very tiring day. Another shoe-propped “flat” spot to pitch, and I’m in for the (very cold) night.
There are two kinds of climbers,
those who climb because their heart sings when they’re in the mountains,
and all the rest.