Southbound: episode 20
February 17th 2007
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White
This journal entry is going to be a little different than usual. I am short on computer time, and this will be our last entry until we make it back to Cincinnati in a week. We will post another from Cincinnati to sum up the trip from here to Springer. We also hope that you will follow post-hike entries that will follow the Make-A-Wish events.
Since leaving Erwin, we have had a lot of different weather, good and bad. However, the most consistent part of it all is that we have so many spectacular views. The Smokey Mountains were amazing. We hit Clingman’s Dome just after sunset, still a beautiful sight. Clingman’s Dome is the highest point on the A.T. at 6,643 feet! It’s the second highest peak of the East. We stayed with 3 North-bounders while in the park, great group of guys. They even led us in prayer before setting out in the morning. I have faith in these guys. The trail presented challenges as usual, cold nights and iceberg-covered trails. The Smokys were one of the big milestones for us and we’re glad to have them at our backs.
After leaving the Smokys we dropped down onto Fontana Dam. The visitor center was closed, but we still roamed the Dam grounds waiting for our shuttle to town. We stayed at the Hiker Inn, the nice people there took us to town to resupply and get dinner. We went to town with a northbounder, Tom. He’s a great guy and it was fun to get to know him and help him with any uncertainties. We are on the other end of things now.
We have stuck to a pretty hard schedule, eager to get home, we have averaged about 20 miles a day recently. It all feels good though, we set our final day at the 23rd, and even more specifically, reaching the end by noon! Our minds race with all the people we’ll see at home and the life that awaits. We are in Franklin NC now, our last town! We got lucky at the road; a police officer gave us a ride to town after just a few minutes. In town we caught another break meeting “Just Jim”, a veteran thru-hiker. The Inn was all filled up, but he offered to share his room. The trail continues to share its magic and we continue to count our blessings. At this point we have 6 days and 6 nights left to go, it’s hard to imagine. Also, a congratulations to our friend “Early Bird”, who finished his thru-hike just a few days ago.
This exert was originally published on atwishhikers.com. It’s content has not been edited from the original post.Epilogue: by: Bryan Wolf
It is amazing that the trail goes from “endless” to “over too quick” and you don’t even see the transition coming. I really feel that we were fighting everyday to get through and make this trail happen, to experience the whole thing, and to complete all 2,175 miles. Then, all of a sudden a few big days and the miles start dropping. 500 turns to 200 and 200 to 100. From Franklin we have less than 110 miles remaining at this point! I can tell you the next 6 days went even faster. The final two weeks I guess is when it really seemed to be ending. The final states, miles, weeks, and towns just passed us by. I can say that no other two weeks went by even half as fast. If we compare it all to the first two weeks it would seem like another lifetime all together.
We are also at the point where there is a transition of confidence and power from being the veterans on the trail. We are starting to pass Northbounders and now we are the ones that can help guide them and answer questions. It was weird to switch positions, but nice to feel like you could help someone on their hike.
The miles all seem pretty easy at this point. I wouldn’t typically say the Smoky Mountains are easy but when you are hiking strong for over 5 months you get conditioned to it. The Park has some of the more strenuous hiking on the trail, at least in the southern section. Being close to Cincinnati it warrants semi-frequent visits.