April 11 - Spence Field Shelter (182.5)

Up and on Trail at 7:45. There are three shelters in the next 11 miles, so target the third one for the night but agree to meet at the second to see how things are going. First hill is Doe Knob, and from this point we begin to walk along the border between North Carolina and Tennessee. As Achin notes, we will be in our third state but completed only one. Have good energy and am in good spirits, much better than yesterday. Get a cell signal and am able to talk to Deb for the first time in days, which is great.

Stop for lunch at Mollies Ridge shelter, and up ride about 10 horse people. Trail dogs aren't allowed in the Smokies, but horses are on parts. They were looking at us thinking "why would anyone walk this", and we were wondering why anyone would ride. 

They had a ton of questions, which we (about 10 hikers) answered. Then they turned their horses up the trail and let their horses leave presents to avoid for the next several miles.

Get to Spence Field Shelter around 3 PM and a "Ridgerunner" is here, Carl. In the Smokies, everyone must sleep in the shelter if room is available. Once it fills up, thru hikers can camp (or must camp if there's not enough that volunteer). Carl is here because there's reservations for 8 day hikers, who get shelter priority, and he is there to make sure they do. Only two show up, two high school girls from Michigan, so there's no problem (except for one of them perhaps when she gets home. Achin tells me the next day her parents don't know she's on the AT, but told them she is "somewhere else".)

I ask Carl about the trail conditions for the next day, and he points out two elevation we see can from the shelter, Rocky Top and Thunderhead Mountain, and says getting to both is tough. In fact, he goes on, most of the trail to the next shelter is difficult. Achin and I look at our guides, and don't see anything harder then we've done before, so we hear his advice but also quietly discount it.


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