Hot Springs is a vortex. We kept thinking about leaving and just couldn’t go! What was supposed to be one nero day turned int 2 zero days due to rain. It was down pouring and most of the thru hikers were’t getting back on the trail, so we figured if they weren’t getting back on without a baby, the family with the baby should probably wait a bit as well. Once we finally left, we thought it was all clear. Then the heavens flooded again. More days of rain, cold and fog.
At some point between Erwin and Hot Springs, we met a fellow SOBO(southbound) hiker. His name was Dice and he was finishing up a thru hike from last year. We ended up hiking about the same pace all the way to the end with him. Anyway, so we wanted to catch up with Dice. We knew he was heading into the Smokies and we wanted to camp with him to hang out. This meant doing a LONG day to get there. I was hesitant because it meant hiking a little in the dark, but Derrick committed to getting there. So we passed a few awesome camp spots before entering the Smokies but pressed on to the first shelter- Davenport Gap Shelter. When we arrived, a HUGE bubble of NOBO hiker greeted us wanting to play with Ellie. It was late, so we didn’t have long, but they were incredibly friendly.
And then it all went down hill from here. We anticipated just about every trail obstacle we could think of. But didn’t consider people obstacles, such as the incredibly contagious norovirus- aka the stomach bug. Within 12 hours we saw 2 people violently ill. This set me into a major panic attack, and I’ve never had a panic attack before! All day long I was nervous about Ellie getting sick. She had been interacting with all the hikers, playing with them, and I was just positive she was going to get it and be medically evacuated. The Lord protected all of us and none of us got sick. Unfortunately it made me too paranoid to enjoy the Smokies. We stopped hanging out with many hikers, stopped going to hostels and shelters, and we were hygiene freaks. I’ve never been a germaphobe in my entire life!
At the end of this week, mom and dad Nienke came and swept us away into Gatlinburg to rest and recover. It was the most needed break yet. Emotionally and physically, we were just spent. By the time they dropped us off back at Clingman’s Dome, we felt refreshed and ready to continue.