Beast of Burden and I hiked at different paces and enjoyed being alone on the trail, so we did not hike side by side, but we planned to stop at Davenport Gap Shelter for the night. Beast of Burden was a section hiker from Iowa and his wife was going to pick him up after completing the GSMNP so this would be our last day together on the trail.
I got a nice early start and found the trail to be mostly downhill. Although the knees take a beating, the miles tend to go by much faster. It was another beautiful day on the Appalachian Trail and I arrived at the Davenport Gap Shelter at 3:00. I was rather disappointed at what I saw. The shelter was a dark structure with a chain front wall. The chain was to deter bears from bothering the campers at night.
I understand that most of the shelters in the GSMNP had been equipped the same chain protection in the past. It reminded me of a jail (although I have never spent time behind bars) and I was thankful that the chain had been removed from the other shelters along the way. It was only 3:00, so I decided to continue on a few miles to a hostel. I felt badly about not being able to say good-bye to my friend from Iowa, so I wrote him a note and left it at the shelter.
I hiked on to the Standing Bear Farm. There was plenty of room in the bunkhouse for $15, and the price included a hot a shower (which a desperately needed) and electric outlets to charge my phone. The hostel was actually outside of the GSMNP, but it was a great ending to my adventures in this famous section of the AT. I was alone in the bunkhouse for a while when I quiet young man, Isaac (no trail name), showed up. We exchanged the normal thru-hiker greetings and then he went off to get some food at the hostel’s store.
I was relaxing on my bunk when I heard someone else approach the hostel. It was a young lady that I had met at the shelter last evening, Glow Worm, and right behind her walked in Beast of Burden. I was happy and surprised to see him. He got my note and said his wife was picking him up tomorrow at the I-40 interchange (just 0.8-mile from the hostel), so he decided to hike on. He treated me to a microwave pizza from the hostel and we had a great talk about our final day in the Smokies. As we said our goodbyes the next morning, Beast of Burden gave me his bear spray for my protection on the adventure ahead. I carried it with me all the way to Mount Katahdin in Maine.
My hike through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was filled with beauty, friendship and a little adversity that translated into a great adventure. Bears, rain, a spectacular sunrise, a few falls, a kindred spirit, and a view from a fire tower dotted the trail with lots of great memories.
Check out my book, Hike It Forward, if you are interested in reading about more of my time on the Appalachian Trail.