March 25, 1998

3/25/98 Gatlinburg, TN

4.5 miles (203.6 total)

Just when you slip off to sleep in a shelter, someone comes in late. Two college kids showed up about 9:00 PM. I’m glad I’d put most of my stuff away already. Trying to keep it organized in the dark while trying to make room is almost guaranteed to loose something.

In the morning, Pufferbelly & Granny argued about whether to go to Gatlinburg or not. Mountain Man and I made a hasty departure in the rain and fog. We made good time to the gap, but I had shitty luck with the hitchhiking into town. I’d walked several miles when a pickup truck with Pufferbelly & Granny in the back stopped to pick me up. It was some ladies just headed into town for some shopping. The temperature rose steadily as we descended the scenic drive down to the parks exit. What I saw was a lot better than I’d seen on the trail. Those two ladies drove us everywhere. The only downside was the Willow Motel said they were closed (even though their sign said "open"). So finally got a more expensive room for the night.

Gatlinburg is the "Branson" of Tennessee. Every other store sells T-shirts, a lot of strange museums (Ripley’s, etc.). When I asked where the locals ate, the hotel clerk said "McDonald’s." You get the picture. Went to the Happy Hiker outfitter to get my mail drop and get my picture added to the "Wall of Thru-hikers." Had Copper Kettle for lunch but way too expensive for what you got. Caught the last trolley bus to the post office and the driver waited because that was the last run of the day. Found a natural foods store hidden on a back street. And right now I’m eating at Pizza Hut. Plan to soak a bit in the jacuzzi tonight. The hard part tomorrow will be getting a lift into the Park. The Soulmates and Bevo were able to get a ride from Clingman’s Dome. They’re stopping for at least two nights and I really wonder if they’ll continue.