AT Day 016: Sunday April 23, 2023

Mile 207.8 +  15.7  miles /25.3 km

Total Distance Hiked: 223.5  miles / 360 km

Gatlinburg, TN – Newfound Gap – Charlie’s Bunion – Laurel Top – Tri Corner Knob Shelter

A: 4450 ft/ 1356 m ~ D: 3550ft/ 1082 m

We had arranged with Cynthia our shuttle driver from Friday, to pick us up from the hotel and take us back to the trailhead. She was outside right on 8 am for the 15 mile drive back to Newfound Gap and the Great Smoky Mountains NP. 

It was great to get back on trail. The day was cold and overcast and it took our bodies a few miles to ease back to hiking mode. We had hoped that the wind would ease off but no luck. All morning a cold wind cut like a razor blade across our hands and faces. Yet the effort of uphill hiking was making us sweat and we were not definitely not overdressed unlike some hikers we passed. 

The early part of the trail was quite busy. It was when we reached a rocky outcrop called Charlie’s Bunion that we realised most of the other hikers were out here for this feature.  It was a rocky shelf sticking out and it did offer great views down towards town, although we could not make out where the town was located.

From the Bunion we had the cold wind and the trail to ourselves. An occasional break in the trees gave us the most magnificent views of a layer upon layer of blue ridges. Simply breathtaking. 

We waited till we could stop for lunch to get gloves and a beanie out. 

We found one of the few flat spots out of the wind to stop for lunch. On the way here were reminiscing about the worse wet and cold lunch locations we’ve had on other trails. Made today feel not too bad at all. At least it’s not raining.

Lunch over we had another 8 miles to get to the next shelter. I wish I could say the afternoon was as exciting as the morning. It was not.  We were in a piney wet forest most of the afternoon. Thick layers of green moss covered almost everything close to the ground. There wasn’t much inspiration around. The only upside was the cold wind had eased off a little which made hiking a little bit more pleasant.  We hiked on in silence till we made it to our destination for the day – Tri Corner Knob Shelter. 

It was just after 4pm and the earliest we’ve stopped on trail. The next shelter is not for another 8 miles. It was freezing, we couldn’t wait to get the tent up and get inside our sleeping bags. Just as we settled we could hear a group of hikers arrive. I’m so glad we didn’t wait for the free shuttle bus from town. It saved us hiking in a bubble.