Goodness, Gracious, Great Smokey Mountains!

Before launching into the many adventures I have had since the responsible adult left, (my younger brother), I need to explain a bit about Trail Names.

Now, you may say, “But Michael, what’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet!” But my response would surely be, “Yes, but thru-hikers smell nothing like roses. They stink.”

Trail Names:

On the Appalachian Trail people are given nicknames that they use while backpacking, which gives the whole experience even more separation from the “real world”. While in the woods, you are a different person.

My trail name, which I received on my first time away from home for a week at Boy Scout Camp with Troop 449, is “Nigel”. I get some weird looks when I tell people my trail name is “Nigel”, because it is actually a real name. Lots of people go by things like “Happy Feet” (who had massive open, oozing blisters), “Micky and Minnie” (a young, excitable, happy couple), “Axle” (who bursts into Guns and Roses songs periodically) and “Swayze” (he looks a bit like Patrick Swayze. No, I’m not giving you his number).

I got “Nigel” basically because someone misheard me say my name was Michael. And it stuck. Partly because I hated it so much that first week, that of course everyone would call me “Nigel” to get on my nerves. I was 11 or 12, and away from home for the first time, so getting on my nerves had the added benefit of making me burst into tears.  And also, there are dozens of “Michaels” running around at Boy Scout camp. Calling me “Nigel” helped keep all the “Michaels” sorted out.

The nickname stuck for 8 years, and made the transition to college, and now I introduce myself as “Nigel” to other thru-hikers. Funny how things happen.

Things that happened since last time I updated the blog:

I left the Nantahala Outdoor Center fully stocked with food and supplies, and went 7 miles to the most gorgeous campsite I have stayed at yet. The shelter was full, so we hiked up to Cheoah Bald and made camp there. They view was spectacular  the weather was excellent, and the company was merry.

Cheoah Bald

That’s Mickey at Cheoah Bald.

From there we did a 19.5 mile day to get into Fontana Dam, a touristy resort village thingy, to celebrate Mickey’s 24th birthday with a good meal and beer. It was an incredible success!

After that I left Mickey, Minnie and Swayze to tackle the Great Smokey Mountains. I did 12 Miles the First day leaving Fontana, and the put together a string of back-to-back-to-back 20 mile days to finish the Smokies and make it to a short-term re-supply place at Standing Bear Hostel. Some folks hitched rides into Gatlinburg, TN, but I had my sights set on Hot Spring to do a full re-supply and spend some time with the lovely lady friend of mine.

In the Great Smokey Mountains I saw: one frightened black bear, one confused wild turkey, a pretty chilled out copperhead snake.

I also got to see beautiful sights from the highest point on the Appalachian Trail, Clingman’s Dome.

There is a ramp up to the Tower at Clingman's Dome. Yes, those are clouds. I'm higher than them.

There is a ramp up to the Tower at Clingman’s Dome. Yes, those are clouds. I’m higher than them.

After Clingman’s Dome there were lots of pretty sights, as I spent most of that day hiking along ridges with views on both sides. It was gorgeous.

I stayed at the Davenport Gap Shelter towards the end of the Smokey Mountains, which had a cage on it to keep the bears out. That was scary. But there were no bears that night.

The only bear I saw I must have scared senseless. I was hiking, lost in thought, and I said one word aloud to myself. From 50 yards away a bear must have suddenly thought “CRAP! HUMAN!” because I heard the sounds of a large animal crashing through the woods at a high speed directly away from me. As I looked up, I could only see a big black bear booty hauling butt away from me.

Two days after the end of the Smokies I made it into Hot Springs, where I was meeting my girlfriend, Laura, and taking a zero day (hiking no miles) to recover.

Now I’m fully re-stocked on food, fuel, and gear, and I’m fully rested and ready to go. This was a necessary zero day, as I my shins and ankles had been swollen for days from the repeated beatings they take every day. Now the swelling has go down, and I’m itching to get back on the trail. I’m at mile 290, and today Laura will drop me off and I will continue onwards, hopefully stopping to do a quick re-supply in Roan Mountain, TN a few days from now.

I feel great, and ready for even more challenges. At very least, I know I am in better shape than Happy Feet.

Happy Feet's Feet aren't so Happy.

Happy Feet’s Feet aren’t so Happy.



6 thoughts on “Goodness, Gracious, Great Smokey Mountains!

  1. Susan

    a) You’re amazing! Keep on hiking, Mikey!
    b) Happy Feet’s feet need medical attention or he may not get to keep them. . .

  2. Ahren

    Dude! Just got off my Rogers and it wAs amazing. You’ll love the balds and the ponies. It’s at 500 miles for most thru hikers. Wish I’d seen you there. Good luck big guy!

  3. Preston

    Hiking those Great Smoky Mountains, aka splitting time between NC and TN — that’s pretty much what I’m all about. You da man.


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