I stayed in Asheville Wednesday night (3/25/15).
Great Smokey Mountains National Park.
Highway 441 bisects the park, and I stopped at a popular pullout called Newfound Gap to make myself a turkey provolone sandwich for lunch. On my way out of the lot I picked up a backpacker who asked if I was headed further north to Gatlinburg, TN.
He’s an early 30’s tall white guy and has the tinge of aged sweat smell. Ryan was not so gaunt as I expected for a thru-hiker. He turned out to be a well-seasoned hiker though with the Pacific Crest Trail, Arizona Trail, Camino de Santiago, and others under his belt. This was his second time up the Appalachian Trail (wiki). This time, he explained, was for business.
Ryan created a website (www.walking4fun.com) intended to motivate people and promote hiking and walking/exercise in general. You enter the distance you walked that day and the website shows where you would be on the trail. It also shows you pictures he took of that area. The next day’s distance is added, and you virtually hike a little further, and so on. We talked about travel and hiking, exchanged website info, and parted with a understanding handshake. (Ryan also has a blog that chronicles his hike)
I hiked a riverside trail (access road) and went through a funny spectrum of feelings.
I started out feeling rushed, trying to complete the 6 mile loop before dark, then I was confused, thinking I may have missed the loop turn off, then frustrated, realizing I had missed it, then happily resigned to my situation as I hiked 4 miles back through dusk to my car.
Right before I exited the park boundary I came upon a heard of elk crossing a pasture. I would have stayed to watch them longer, but I was already late to a couch surfing arrangement I had in Hendersonville, NC for the night.”