Four Days in the Smokies: What I Ate, Freezing Temps

This article originally appeared on The Trek, which you can also read here.

I may or may not be writing this from the Fontana Dam ladies heated bathroom where I may or may not have taken a hot shower, washed and dried out my frozen socks, and laid my Therm-a-Rest to sleep for the night. It was almost 7 p.m. when I got to the dam and figured by the time I get to the road and call the shuttle provided by the Fontana Village Resort I’d miss the restaurant closing at 9 p.m., the only place to grab a bite. Near empty food bag, I decided to bunker down, hike the 1.9 in the morning and catch the shuttle for a big breakfast and resupply tomorrow.

Pack explosion in the ladies room

Pack explosion in the ladies room

I just finished the Smokies and I’m reminded of Maine when everything’s new and you’re totally stunned later at what you’ve just experienced. Even the terrain felt Maine-like with Dr. Seuss-like trees and untouched moss covering boulders around the trail. The steep ascents rewarded old muscle groups and I went wild loving every step, despite the snow. I knew snow was a big possibility but the single-digit  freezing temperatures really threw in a wrench into the daily grind. I seemed to hit every shade of weather, viewpoint, and mind-set at exactly the right time as it was meant for me. Even if it was a little miserable.

I’m calling the Smokies a last hoorah for hard-core SOBOs before the walk into Georgia. I passed a section hiker crossing I-40 and he shouted, “Hey, enjoy the Smokies, man!” I flew a peace sign his way and thought, yeah, let’s enjoy this. After all, there’s only so much left to enjoy.

On the topic of prepping for the Smokies, everyone chimed in at hiker Thanksgiving—“Bring plastic bags for your feet” and “Once you’re in, you’re in until the end, so 75 miles with no resupply or way out” and “Definitely sleep with your Sawyer.” I learned later that you can find an easy exit at Newfound Gap and pop into Gatlinburg in a pinch, but I wanted to swing the Smokies without a break. I made a four-day resupply plan to finish in 18-22 miles per day. In the end the miles broke down to an 18, 20.6, 13, and a 24 to finish off this section.

One of my favorite parts about thru-hiking is the food culture and planning a resupply. I appreciate creativity and literally spicing it all up. I can honestly say I haven’t eaten a single ramen or Idahoan instant potato pack on this trip. I believe there are way tastier options to satiate hiker hunger. As you know, I started this thru-hike stoveless and kept it up for almost 1,500 miles before the cold rains got to me. While at Four Pines Hostel in Virginia and with the help from Old School Hippy, I made a DIY alcohol stove from two aluminum cans.

DIYalcohol stove.jpg

Standing Bear Farm offers a decent resupply right before the Smokies and I made the most of what they offered, gathering Butterfingers, corn chips, peanuts, and rice dinners. This time around I added a sage-flavored Stove Top stuffing mix to top into my hot dinners. In my last resupply from home, I had my personal favorite, Crazy Richard’s peanut powder. I’ll mix it into hot dinners, recreate peanut butter with a squeeze of Land O’Lakes, or make my signature chocolate drink that I’m now calling the Smoky Mocha—one to two hot chocolate packets, one to two instant coffees, and two to three spoonfuls of peanut powder. Drink hot or pour into a liter bottle and shake until dissolved.

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Breakfast: Smoky Mocha and Butterfinger, Snickers, or Pop-Tarts

Snacks: Corn chips, peanuts, or crackers

Dinner: I picked up two 9.8 ounce packs of Bear Creek rice mix and planned to split them into three dinners plus add Stove Top stuffing, peanuts, and lots of butter. One night I sauteed the Tennessee River Smokehouse ham in butter and threw it into the rice dinner.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Resupply

Grocery List

Two Bear Creek beef rice mix (split into three nights of dinner)

One Tennessee River Smokehouse value biscuit country ham

One Knorr Pasta Side Creamy Pesto

One Stove Top stuffing mix, sage flavor

One Clancy’s bag corn chips

Three Pop-Tarts: one frosted chocolate fudge, two cookies and cream

One Snickers

Six Butterfingers, each king size

Eight Swiss Miss marshmallow hot chocolate

Five Starbucks Via instant coffee

Two Folgers instant coffee

Four Keebler Club & Cheddar crackers

Two Moon Lodge salted peanuts

Variable quantity, both items used by the time I got to Davenport Gap:

One Land O’Lakes soft squeeze butter

One Crazy Richard’s 100% peanut powder