Made it to Hot Springs!

Did you know that the elevation changes on the Appalachian Trail add up to more than 475,000 ft, which is equivalent to more than 16 times Mount Everest?
We are now in Hot Springs, NC.  While we were in the Smokie Mountains, we reached the highest point on the Appalachian Trail which is Clingman’s Dome at 6643ft.  We decided to get up at 4AM to hike up to Clingman’s Dome for the sunrise, which was absolutely beautiful- but also quite cold and windy on top of the tower.  We sat in our sleeping bags watching the sun come up through some hazy morning clouds up on the tallest point on the trail.
Every through hiker has fears about weather in the Smokies since in can snow up until mid May.  We were very lucky and had beautiful summer-like weather the whole way through (temperatures in the 70’s), but the rumors about snow did prove to be true.  Once we got to the higher elevations- e.g. Clingman’s Dome onwards there was tons of snow still on the ground mostly 3-4ft, but drifts probably up to 5 or 6ft deep.  So we had to post-hole our way through the second half of the Smokies- snow up to our waists at some points and our boots were wet the whole time.  Thus, it took us a couple days longer than expected to make it to Hot Springs.
Since my last update both of us have acquired trail names:  “Dirt Stew” and I am “Dormouse”.  Dirt Stew got his trail name after he spilt half of the noodles we had made for lunch in the middle of the trail and then picked them up, covered in dirt and put them in a bowl.  He then tried to wash them off- but wound up with a bowl of dirty water and dirty noodles.  He pathetically tried to eat some, but we wound up splitting the leftover clean ones.  I got my trail name because of my constant need for more sleep.  It gets dark around 8:30pm now, and light at 6:30 to 7AM, but still I wind up sleeping almost 12 hours when I get to a town with a real bed and shades to block the sun!  (Dormouse is from Alice in Wonderland, if some of you don’t know the refference)
While we were in the Smokies our appetites kicked in.  We thought we had enough food for 5 days- which we thought would allow us to make it through the Smokies, but I thought we were cutting it close so we decided to go into Gatlinburg half way through.  The night we made that decision, we ate 4 of our dinners and half of our snacks that were supposed to last us 5 days.  Oops!  Good thing there was a way to get to town!
Gatlinburg was awful- just a tourist trap which was impossible to run errands in.  We had barely enough time to do laundry, eat and buy food/supplies.  Nothing was close walking distance, everything was expensive and the place was full of crazy people trying to vacation.  (Sorry for the lack up update from Gatlinburg…).
Now that we’re in Hot Springs, we finally took a day off- mostly to be able to rest and celebrate Dirt Stew’s birthday.  We just went to the hot springs themselves– hot mineral water piped into a Jacuzzi!  Last night we had a nice large dinner and then bought ice cream and went to a local bar with a bunch of other hikers for ice cream and beer (every hiker seems to crave these two things the most on the trail).
Next town we come to is Erwin- about 5 or 6 days away, so hopefully we’ll find a computer there!
Till then,

Dormouse

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