So, when we left off, Andrew and I had just arrived at Kephart Shelter at the end of Day 2 of our backpacking trip.
Kephart Shelter is one of the nicest shelters I have been to! The shelter was 3 sides, with a stone fireplace and chimney built into one side. If you’ve never stayed in a shelter in the Smokies, there is a certain etiquette everyone is expected to follow. This shelter was designed to hold 14 people – 7 on each sleeping level. You aren’t allowed to set up tents or hammocks inside the shelter. Packs (smellables, at a minimum) should be hung on bear cables. All cooking and eating should be done outside the shelter. Cooking and eating outside the shelter is crucial to keep bears out of the shelter, since there isn’t a door or gate across the front of the shelter.
The fireplace was the best part about this shelter – it helped the shelter warm inside on another cold night. You may recall from the last post that I experienced some pretty severe knee and achilles pain on the hike to Kephart. After I got to the shelter and took off my boots, my achilles continued to swell and stiffen up. Andrew and I hoped that being off of it and giving it a break from my boots (and a little anti-inflammatory) would help alleviate some of the pain and swelling.
After another cold night, we were ready to get up and get moving the next morning. When we looked at my heel, the swelling in my achilles had actually gotten worse overnight. We made the difficult decision to hike out to the road and cut our trip short by a day. We never like having our adventures cut short, but we both know that it isn’t worth risking an injury before our thru-hike in the spring.
Now, hiking out was easier said than done. Our train crossed a road not far from the shelter, maybe just over a mile. But that was 9 miles up the road from our car. We weren’t prepared to hitch hike, but that was our only option to get back to our car. Unfortunately, folks don’t like picking up hitch hikers, and there was no way we could tell anyone we only needed to go 9 miles down the road. So we started walking. Luckily, about halfway back, we met someone who was nice enough to let us ride the last 5 miles in the back of his truck.
Overall, we had a great trip, with the exception of having to call it quits early.
Check back for 1 more post about this trip. Coming off the trail early let us spend some extra time in Asheville!