Day 11: Blue skies and white trails

Friday March 22, 21 miles/33.8km

Mt Collins Shelter TN (202.8) to Tri-Corner Knob shelter NC (223.4) + 0.4mi side trail

Close call wakes up before I do, and he is leaving as I’m getting packed up. I’m on the trail at 7:45, and it looks like it snowed another inch overnight.

But, it’s easy walking, and with the clouds leaving and incoming blue skies, I’m hopeful the sun will melt this two inches of snow.

I get to Newfound Gap at 9am, where a paved highway crosses the mountain range. The road is currently closed for ice, so there are no hordes of tourists like usual. In fact, the only person I see is a ranger. The views are amazing though!

I stop in the bathroom for a bit, and it’s heated! So I stay and take a break, make a few phone calls, have a snack. There are funny signs throughout the room..

After 30 minutes I continued up the trail. It’s still snowy, but getting warmer and trees are dropping their melting snow.

I stop at Icewater Spring shelter for lunch. It’s on a south facing slope, so it feels quite warm, and I’m finally able to shed a clothing layer.

Another few miles down the trail is a Rocky outcrop named Charlie’s Bunion. It’s steep, but has cool views to the north. And a funny sign about children.

The rest of the day is a nice walk on a slushy trail. There are plenty of views, and I don’t see anyone else all day, though I do see an increasing amount of footprints in the snow.

I get to Tri-Corner Knob shelter at 4:45pm, and there are 8 other hikers here. Yay, people! We chat and have dinner, and I see Close Call again.

A side note, the trail follows the high ridgeline through these mountains, which is also the NC/TN border. So, I will be crossing back and forth for the next week or so.

Tomorrow is the last day in the Smokies!

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