The night at Mollies Shelter was cold. Two trail maintenance guys tried to light a fire in the shelter fireplace, but the winds just drove the smoke all over, making it very uncomfortable and smelling up everyone's sleeping bags. The wind kept up all night long and I didn't get much sleep. I was cold all night because of the wind and then it was a chilly morning.
I was hoping that the trail would not be too steep. Interestingly, there were places to tie up horses at the shelter. One week earlier they had evacuated a woman with a broken ankle by using horses. Unfortunately, the horse trail turned left and we went straight up a mountain and so we continued all day, straight up, straight down, steep steep steep.
The sun was out later though. The winds kicked up to 25-30 mph and it was a day of steep, sweat inducing climbs followed by frigid downhills. When it was flat, it was only because we were on a bald and so the wind were chilling.
The next night we were again in a shelter but this one had tarps draped across most of the open wall (shelters have three walls and a roof). We were full up with 12 people with more arriving. We ended up with 13 on the inside and 3-4 tents on the outside. One guy had a guitar and an impromptu band banging on pots and such was formed and kept us entertained for an hour or so.
The sleep that night was much better than the night before. The tarps kept the wind out of the shelter for the most part and it was only cold in the morning. Rain was expected but didn't show up.
At 6 a.m. Bonjour woke me with, "Gronk! It's 6 o'clock!" "Roger," I said and began packing. We had agreed that if it was not raining in the morning, we'd make the 10 mile run to Clingman's Dome to avoid a rain hike as much as possible. When we got nearer Clingman's, we were on the east side of the mountain with the wind blowing strongly from the east. Everything was socked on and we were walking in the clouds. Water vapour was wafting over us and the winds were in excess of 50 mph (confirmed later). It was a slog.
We got to Clingman's information center and the three volunteers made us welcome and even made us coffee. We told stories for the hour that it took the shuttle to come get us.
We checked in, did a laundry, had a shower and then headed out for a meal at one of the numerous restaurants in Gatlinburg. This is a tourist town and there is food everywhere which is perfect for a hungry hiker.
Now I have to take care of my blisters and resupply. I have to figure out what I need to get through the Smokies and then to Hot Springs. The Smokies are far tougher than I thought they would be. And now the weather is saying that it's going to be raining for some days to come.