Cosby Knob Shelter to Groundhog Creek Shelter – 17.6 miles
Made it out of the Smokies! Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t as nice as the day before. It rained most of the day and even hailed at one point. Shelter was full when I got there so I had to set my tent up in the rain. Met Eskimo because our tents were beside each other and we held a conversation through our tents.
The first part of the day I avoided rain until I made an early lunch stop at Davenport Gap Shelter. As soon as I am under cover of the shelter, the rain starts and within 5 minutes it is pouring. I took a longer break than usual to see if the rain would let up some. It slowed down a bit, so eventually I put on my rain jacket and continued on to exit the Smoky Mountains in the next mile.
I had been hiking down steep trail for 5 miles so once at the gap, I headed up the next mountain. What comes down, must go up on the AT. With the rain, cold, and steep uphill on the last half of my day, my feet hurt like hell and I was exhausted and hoping the shelter I planned to stop at had space for me. Unfortunately, that was not the case. I was a wet, muddy mess and needed to rest before I started setting up my tent in the wonderful AT rain. I hung out under the not so great overhang of the shelter with other hikers and a dog. The dog was a welcome surprise! It was at this time that I realized that I did not have my water purifier with me. It was still hanging up in the last shelter I spent the night in. I was not feeling so great at this point.
I leave the shelter to go find a spot for my tent and can only find one space that isn’t full and/or a pool of mud. This spot just so happened to be right next to someone else’s tent. They were hanging out in the shelter while I set up, no one was there to stop me, so I put my tent up as best as I could in the rain without getting the inside wet. Once set up, I get in my tent, put on my dry clothes, and cooked my dinner in the vestibule of my tent while wrapped up in my sleeping bag. You are not supposed to cook or eat food in your tent because the food smell will stick to it and attract animals, but I was way past caring at this point. I also thankfully had enough water to cook my dinner and have some left over for the morning, but not a lot.
While cooking, I find out the tent I set up next to belonged to another thru hiker named Eskimo. We both ate in our tents and talked for a long time about the trail and our lives off the trail. It was really nice, but eventually my exhaustion kicked in and I had to end the conversation so that I could sleep. My tent was going to be soaked in the morning and I did not want to think anymore about having to put away a wet tent. Only good news at the end of today is that I would get to Max Patch tomorrow.