Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Day 21: The Gatlinburg Zero, Part 2!

March 28: I woke up bright and early and packed up my pack. I still needed to resupply food before I left town since I had been thwarted in my attempt to get to the grocery store the day before due to a distinct lack of sidewalks, but my plan was to take a trolley to the grocery store, restock, then get a ride back to the trail.

I was excited to get back onto the trail because a light dusting of snow covered everything in Gatlinburg. Four thousand feet up in the mountains, they definitely got more than a mere dusting! And I wanted to get on the trail and start taking photos of it!

It’s hard to take bears seriously when they dress like this! (In case it wasn’t obvious, Easter was about a week away.)

But my plans hit a snag when I went to the front desk to check out. The guy at the front desk told me, “You know the road to Newfound Gap is closed, right?”

Well… no… I didn’t know that. “Closed, closed?” I asked.

He nodded affirmatively. “Closed due to snow.”

Well, shoot. I definitely hadn’t planned on that. He did tell me that it was likely the road would reopen later in the afternoon after it had warmed some and they had cleared the road of snow, but as of right now, it was still closed.

I was torn. To stay or to go? I waffled back and forth for a couple of minutes, but finally decided to stay an extra day. I wasn’t going to get very far on the trail today anyhow since I still needed to go to the grocery store and get some shopping done, and to the post office to pick up a flat rate box to ship my laptop ahead. Now I could take my time instead of rushing things. And maybe see a bit more of Gatlinburg to boot. When would I ever be here again?

So I paid for another night at the hotel and went back to my room unpacking everything I had just packed up. I was stranded in Gatlinburg for at least one more day. There are definitely worse places to get stranded, though!

A small suspension bridge in the NOC in Gatlinburg. If I haven’t said it before, I love rickety suspension bridges! Even if they’re indoors! =)

I met up with Click who also wanted to go to the post office to check if a maildrop for him had arrived, so we walked through town to the trolley stop at the aquarium. We saw probably a dozen other thru-hikers during that short walk, and most of them I didn’t know but Click seemed to know them all. There were a couple of people I knew, such as Poppins and Stoat. And Click, of course, who I was currently walking with.

Stoat had some taffy she tried to push onto us, rather urgently. “It’s fresh! Less an an hour old!” she insisted. Her insistence for us to try it raised my suspicions. “What is it going to do? Turn my mouth blue or something?”

She insisted that it wasn’t trick candy and just to try it, so eventually I caved and tried it and there was nothing tricky about the candy. Just regular old taffy, freshly made. I’ll need to apologize for doubting her intentions the next time I see her. =) (To be fair, though, I totally would have been pushing trick candy on other people saying it was “freshly made.”)

Click and I finally arrived at the trolley stop, and apparently we had just missed the last trolley and wound up waiting nearly 40 minutes before the next one arrived. Ugh! We could have walked there in that time!

And we were doubly disappointed when we arrived at the post office to learn it had already closed for the day. It was Saturday and their hours were much more limited than either of us had realized. It wasn’t a total wasted trip for me, however, since the grocery store was right across the street, but Click was clearly upset about the situation. He’d wasted over an hour to get somewhere that was already closed and now still needed to get back. I felt a little sorry for him, but we parted ways. He went back to the trolley stop and I headed into the grocery store.

I bought all sorts of food and items to last me through Hot Springs, my next resupply point, making my way out of the store with a pack full of food about an hour later. Click was already gone, presumably picked up by a trolley already. I sat down to wait for the next one when I realized that the cars heading out of town were backed up and at a complete standstill. That was odd…

I looked up the hill and noticed emergency vehicles with their lights flashing a short ways ahead and, did my eyes deceive me, or was that a helicopter in the middle of the road? It was a helicopter in the middle of the road!

Why yes, that is a helicopter I see in the middle of the road! They’re transferring a patient on a gurney from the ambulance to the helicopter in this photo.

I was seriously curious now and started walking up closer to the action. A helicopter was idling in the middle of the road near an ambulance, and from what I could gather, they were transferring a patient from the ambulance to the helicopter. A few minutes later, the helicopter took off and the fire trucks allowed traffic to resume. I walked back to the trolley stop to wait.

Several minutes later, another person arrived at the trolley stop and asked me if a helicopter had just landed on the road again. Again? This happens often over here?! I guess so… It was right in front of a fire station, and I surmised that it was the quickest place that they could stop traffic to allow a helicopter to land safely on the road  and where an ambulance could safely transfer a patient. I was a little surprised, though. Really, is there nowhere else in Gatlinburg a helicopter could land?

Eventually, the trolley arrived and I made it back into the town center. I headed back to the hotel where I repacked all of my new food into ziplock bags and worked on this blog.

Near dusk, I decided to go out and explore Gatlinburg some more which is how I ended up on the Sky Lift. It’s like a ski lift, except I wasn’t wearing skis and there wasn’t any snow on the ground. Not down here, at least. In the mountains rising high above Gatlinburg, there was clearly plenty of snow. Anyhow, I jumped on the Sky Lift to get a bird’s-eye view of Gatlinburg.

I’d wave to any kids coming down in the opposite direction because kids like that sort of thing. =)

But that was it for me for the day. I learned later in the evening that the road to Newfound Gap had reopened, so hopefully I’d be good to go come morning!

The Sky Lift headed to the top of this ridge. Looks like fun to me! =)

The view from the top of the Sky Lift overlooking Gatlinburg. That green streak in the middle is the “Space Needle.” Notice the white mountain tops in the distance. Those are the Smoky Mountains, that’s where the Appalachian Trail is, and that white stuff is SNOW! There’s snow on the Appalachian Trail, and I can’t get to it!

I took a video as the helicopter took off into the proverbial sunset...


JAnderson Photography said...

Can't wait to hear more about your journey! So glad that I stumbled across your blog today. I am planning a trip over to either GBURG or Bryson City, NC to hike up to the AT. Can't figure out which area to leave my car because I am not sure which one will let me. Planning just to hike the AT for 2 days and hike back. I don't even know if I have to have a pass since I am not thru hiking. when you get time, can I ask how long it took you from Fontana dam to newfound gap parking area?

Amanda from Seattle said...

It took me about four days of hiking, I think, to hike through the Smokies. (You might need more time depending on how good of shape you're in, though!) You will need a permit to camp in the Smokies and you can find information about that online. You don't need a permit for anywhere else on the AT outside of the national parks.

(This IS Ryan, but I think I'm posting from Amanda's account because I'm using her computer at the moment!)