Miles Today: 12.6
Mile Marker: 177.0
Per the usual today didn't go as expected. I intended to be another three miles down the line, but today was a tough one. I started at 1,756 feet and finished at 4,586 feet. That gain over 12.6 miles isn't too bad if it's just up the whole way. I've said it before, but here in Appalachia they are proud of their mountains. It's very important you go up and down Every. Single. One. of them along the way. I'm too tired to math, but the elevation change was probably 1.5 to 2 times the 2,800 feet difference from where I started and ended.
I was lethargic this morning, and didn't get started until 10:30ish. (Mom, sit down for this) The breakfast of 3 eggs, 2 sausage links, 2 bacon strips, 2 pancakes (they were whole wheat at least), a biscuit with jam, a hash brown pattie, orange juice, and coffee may or may not have had a correlation with the lethargy. I didn't even think about food again until 4:30 this afternoon. I'm fairly certain the quinoa salad I packed out for lunch offset the breakfast though… For dinner I had a hiker box special. A hiker box is where hikers drop provisions and gear they don't need/want. Most outfitters and lodging that cater to hikers have them. Old E hiked the PCT last year and said the gold in the hiker boxes are the homemade meals that people throw out. This one simply said beef. And that's what I have with Old E now. (Not really) That was the blandest meal I've ever had. I'm fairly certain it was just Ramen noodles, beef jerky, and freeze dried vegetables without the Ramen seasoning packet. Thankfully I also scored a jar of garlic powder. After adding enough to eradicate Transylvania’s vampire problem, it was stomachable.
In addition to the late start, I was racing a storm rolling in. The silver lining is I had to scarf my dinner down as quickly as possible so I could get my cook kit into my food bag and up in the trees on a bear cable before the rain hit. Almost made it, but I got a little sprinkle while hanging it. Sleeping with food near my tent isn't an option tonight. Two people spotted a bear a mile south of camp on their way in. They're coming out now, and they're hungry. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park forces everyone to camp in the same spots, so all the bears and varmints know exactly where to look for hiker food.
The hike in this morning was absolutely amazing. Clear skies, stunning views, and a walk across the Fontana Dam. About five miles in there was an old rickety fire tower. The views from the top were incredible. It's already difficult to capture how magnificent some of the scenery is here, but taking pictures through old dirty glass is even harder. Trust me, it was great.
All in all another great day on the trail.