Day 22-23: May 6-7, 2022 Newfound Gap to Pecks Elevation Profile +2721/-2304 10.5 Miles; Total 218.2 Miles

Let’s just say, Zero in Gatlinburg. Ron & Elisa were my tour guides. Early morning was devoted to laundry at Well Wishing, not to be confused with Wishing Well. Done by 10am and off to Bootleggers for Whiskey Tasting 101. Yes, I did some sipping last night but evidently that wasn’t really whiskey, but flavored water.

Derek 5th Generation Moonshiner

Bootleggers is a 16 Generation Distillery which dates back to the Pilgrim’s. Who would’ve thought that the Quakers were brewing whiskey on the Mayflower? But then, why not? Our Pourer, Derek explained that there are only four distillery”s in Tennessee who actually concoct their own secret recipe of moonshine and distribute it. Most distributors use others to make the moonshine, then they add flavors and such to make it their own. We tasted flavored whiskeys that had the fruit in the mason jars, cherries, pineapples, berries and more. What a difference! It wasn’t terribly sweet but just enough natural sugar to smooth the moonshine heat. After ten swigs of incredibly good-tasting whiskey’s, we stocked up and walked out with a variety pack of Apple Pie, Coffee and Salted Caramel Whiskeys.

Our Loot from Bootleggers

We stopped at a few more distillery’s just to get the stamps on the Whiskey Tour Passport. I had them stamp my AT Passport, as well. What a fabulous way to spend a Zero Day! We had lunch and met up with Cheesecake and MopHandle, AT Hikers that I was introduced to by my Mentee Kim at Bayside Church.

Kim and I at Women’s ChristmasDinner

Kim and I have been meeting for close to a year every Friday and sharing our love for Christ. We would read a chapter in “Flourish” then meet and talk about how God spoke to us. It was a beautiful growth period for both of us. Ends up that Kim’s cousin is a hiker too. Cheesecake and MopHandle had just left the trail and wanted to meet up. We had lunch together, shared our experiences on the trail and had a great time. As we left, they had a ton of trail food they shared with Blue and I. What a score! Freeze dried meals galore, Propel, Peanut M&M’s, Nuts and Bars. Saved us a ton of time shopping at endless places looking for food. Thank you Cheesecake and MopHandle.We are eating the Chicken and Dumplings tonight. Yummy!

Cheesecake, Elisa and I with our Trail Provisions

Saturday at 9am, Ron and Elisa shuttled us back to the trail. Light rain and drizzle made for a wet and cold day. But it is the AT, so thats expected and fair game. As soon as I arrived at the Trailhead, I ran into Rappunzle and Potatoes. I hadn’t seen them since “Around the Bend” Hostel, a couple of weeks ago. They were headed into Gatlinburg to dry out and restock.

Blue and Me at Newfound Gap Trailhead

The day was fine but unfortunately we missed out on some incredible views of the Smokey’s. With all the ridge walks, we should’ve seen mountains on all sides. We were walking in clouds, sometimes above, sometimes below us, yet always damp and cool. The mist was all about, so hence, no views to share.

On the Smokey’s Ridgeline

I met a new hiker today from Idaho. He just started and has plans to hike for the next three days. His wife is staying in town checking out genealogy while he’s hiking the Smokey’s. Let’s call him Randy. He’s a father of 8 children, 2 adopted and LDS-Mormon Faith. Oh Lord, you are something else. I ask him the loaded question, why are you hiking? He shares how he loved hiking as a kid, did a lot with the Boy Scouts and the one time he went with his father, he got lost. Randy, his brother and father spent the night in the woods without any provisions. He said after that, his Dad decided he would be better off hiking with his peers who knew better. When he became a father, he had taken his kids out quite a few times. Now they’re all grown and have no desire to hike or backpack. So he decided to hike solo. Welcome Randy to the fold. He asked me for my why? I smiled and shared with him my blog, spreading Gods love on the trail. He says, you’re inspiring me to do more. That was heartfelt and opened the door to share my faith. We walked and talked for a good hour. I just love how God knows what I don’t know. It’s always a surprise!

Crazy Looking Fungi on the Trail

Tonight is my first time staying in a Shelter. I have always intended to be a no-way never-ever sleep in a shelter girl! But here I am, It’s raining outside, ground saturated to the depths of you know where, and I am laying flat on a shelter platform. The place is packed. No one is tenting. We are in a shelter that sleeps 12 and there’s more than 20 of us. As they say on the AT, there’s always room for one more. The fire is roaring, there is jazz music playing and people laughing. Maybe sleeping in a shelter isn’t so bad after all. As long as the mice stay away, I’ll keep an open mind.

Fire in the Shelter

Well Lord, I want to thank you for this incredible experience that only you could’ve planned. The love that you have shown me through the people I have met in this past few weeks is more than I could’ve ever imagined. The relationships that you are building, the friends that I am making, the paths that you are forging will last a lifetime. What a lovely way to hike to Maine!

Rain, sleet, thunderstorm nor hail can never stop the miraculous love of the Lord. Amen

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