AT Day 017: Monday April 24, 2023

Mile 223.5 + 23.3 miles /37.5 km

Total Distance Hiked: 246.8 miles /397  km

Tri Corner Knob Shelter – Snake Den Ridge – Low Gap – Sunup  Knob – Davenport Gap – Pigeon River Bridge – Interstate 40 – Standing Bear Farm – Snowdrop Mountain

A: 5119 ft/1582 m ~ D: 6895ft/ 2100 m

Twelve hours sleep, it’s a new record for us on trail. It was a freezing cold night. The condensation on the tent fly was frozen in the morning. The shelter had very few level campsites. We were camped on a bit of a downslope and all night I could feel mysef sliding down. 

Yesterday afternoon we were discussing the differences in how much we are feeling the cold. The wind cut through yesterday and chilled to the bone. We’ve not experience this uncomfortable coldness at such low altitude for some time.  Maybe we’ve grown soft over the last few years. 

 We broke camp and hiked in our puffy jackets for the first 3 hours. It was just as uninspiring hiking as yesterday. Piney forest with dense moss covering everything at found level. I read that the Smokies get 120 inches of rain on average. That’s almost 3 metres of rain per year. And judging by the piney moss covered forest we’ve had since Clingmans Gap, most of it must fall in this area. While the forest was dark and glum it was interesting the see the pattern ice crystals formed on the trailside vegetation.  Quite beautiful. 

We  hiked past the site of an old plane crash.   On January 4, 1974 a US Air Force RF-4C Phantom II  disintegrated after crashing here. Two pilots were killed and debris from the crash spread over a huge area. Hikers are still finding bits of the debris from the crash.  

About 7 miles from camp we noticed the forest canopy was opening up and deciduous forests was returning. Along with this came the spring blooms.   It was such a joy to see this after what felt like days of uninspiring green, wet and gloomy surrounds.  This along with a long downhill to Interstate 40 put a spring in our step. We felt re-energised by seeing spring blooms and bright green shoots on the trees shimmering in the sunlight. The afternoon seem to fly by with me stopping every few minutes for just one more flower photo. 

We crossed under the highway and a short distance up arrived at Standing Bear Farm. It’s a working farm which  offers hikers food for resupply and also  accomodation.  

We had high expectations of this location but we were a little disappointed with food choices for resupply. We got a few things and headed off for the long climb up Snowbird Mountain. But not before having a totally decadent jam filled donut. Hammer chose one without jam. What a mistake.

Powered by fat and sugar we made easy work of the 4 mile climb of Snowbird Mountain. Fabulous views from the top with the sun slowly dipping over the horizon. It was so lovely to be back amongst the spring blooming forest. And to find another gorgeous slipper orchid. What a way to end the day.