We didn't get back on the trail until 12. We left the hotel around 10 and tried to hitch back to the trail head but to no avail. People in Gatlinburg didn't seem to want to pick up some freshly washed hiker trash. Finally a taxi rolled by and offered us a ride up for $10 a person. We had no choice but to take it. We finally reached the trailhead and set off northward. Thunderstorms were in the forecast and we could hear them rumbling in the distance. It didn't take long before they were right on us. I quickly put on my rain gear as the skies opened up. I hurriedly made it to the shelter 2 miles later already soaked. My rain jacket apparently does not work as well as advertised. We waited out the storm at the shelter and then continued on. We had 7 more miles to do before we were done. By that point the trail had turned into creeks with a good inch or two of water running down them, and of course I sent back my gortex socks home with my parents the day before. It became impossible to avoid the deep puddles and my feet quickly became soaked. It got to the point of being wet where you just have to trust the mud and trudge on. It was a great feeling to reach the shelter and be able to put on some fresh warm socks.
I woke up this morning to some nice wet and cold socks. The high elevation Smokies are like a tropical rainforest, everything is wet. The trail was still a small stream from the rains the day before. We pushed through to the next shelter where we ate lunch and let our feet dry out. The rest of the day was a string of ridge walks which allowed us our last views of the national park. The highlight of the day was stumbling upon some old plane wreckage. Not something you expect to see when you are on top of a mountain. We reached the shelter around 3:30. The shelter was in a really cool spot with views of the valley below. Was nice to get warm and dry.
Bliss, what an absolutely amazing morning. The sun was out, the skies were blue, and the temperature was supposed to be in the 80s. I headed out of camp around 8:30 with a little skip in my step, dry socks can do that to you. 3 miles into the day we took a blue blaze .6mi off trail to Mt Cammerer Firetower. It was well worth the 1.2 extra miles round trip. The tower was built into the rock face and allowed for some amazing 360° views back to the Smokies and of the trail to come. The rest of the day was all downhill as we made our way out of the Smokies, finally. They were beautiful, but I am ready for that Appalachian Trail freedom again. The Smokies only allow you to camp at the shelters due to the bear activity. Once we made it to Davenport Gap, the boundary line, the scenery immediately changed. We stepped out onto a concrete road and had to pass under the I-40 interstate. Didn't think I would be doing much road-walking along the AT. The good thing was that the hostel was just on the otherside. Standing Bear Farm is one of the more famous hostels along the AT. It's got an old Appalachian rustic feel about it, and the caretaker "Lumpy" is worth the stay alone. The bunkhouse that the hikers stay in was originally an old general store at one point. I quickly inhaled an entire frozen pizza and a few PBRs to recoupriate some lost calories. I've already lost around 13 lbs since I have been out here. Life is amazing out here. Every day is a new adventure.