We were back on the Appalachian Trail by 10:00 AM and headed straight for Charlies Bunion. We hung out at the overlook and watched the clouds charge in. It went from clear to total white out in less than 15 minutes. We remained above 5000 feet all day so we were in the clouds for most of the walk. The Trail was clear and easy to hike all the way to Pecks Corner Shelter. I was in awe of the masterful stone work along parts of the trail. We enjoyed the leisurely 10 mile stroll to the shelter spotting deer and many signs of those wild boar. The more evidence of wild boar we saw, the more we fantasized about slowly roasting a succulent pig on a spit over a campfire.
By far the most often encountered wildlife on the Appalachian Trail is the common deer mouse. This fearless little sucker enjoys the high life feeding off of hikers. You can tell how bad the mice are in a shelter by the number of elaborate anti-mouse food hangers dangling from the ceiling. Right from the start, a mouse chewed a hole through my backpack at Springer Shelter. Boy, was I pissed. At Pecks Corner Shelter, the voracious little bastards ate ALL of the lemon drops I had hiked in from Gatlinburg. The sugar charged rodents scurried over every inch of the shelter (including our sleeping bags) which we could see from all the tiny lemon drop sugar pawprints everywhere.
We were driven to devise an Appalachian Trail mouse trap. Mark and I made a contest of it, McGuyver-ing (bad TV character reference) a trap using only what we had on hand. Mark catapulted a mouse into the air with a fork, some string and a peanut. It was an ingenious device that sounded a satisfactory twang as the mouse ate through the nut that held back the fork, followed by a distinct thud of the mouse hitting the roof of the shelter. I prefered to capture the mice alive (for study, of course), so I used our cook pot with the lid, a rubberband and a carefully whittled trigger twig. With a loud clang, the mouse was caught inside. Deer mice look so darn cute when they think they are about to die. I shook him up, told him to warn his friends, then let him go with a heave away from the shelter. These days the deer mice create a hazardous situation known as hantavirus. No joke, the mouse dung dust will get in your lungs and kill you, so killing the little devils isn’t such a bad idea!
Winding our way out of the Smokies, we stayed at Cosby Knob Shelter for our last night in the park. Tom and Terry were there already (we met them back in Georgia) and the shelter filled up fast after we pulled in. Mark and I longed for some solitude out of the park and couldn’t wait to camp freely again. We slipped out of the Smoky Mountain National Park and into nearly non-existant Davenport Gap. Imaginary banjo ditties filled my head as we stepped from the store that sold more tobacco products than anything else. I resisted the urge to say “Nice tooth!” as I walked by a man that looked like an extra from the Deliverance set. We walked along the Pigeon River back to the Trail and thankfully left the Gap behind.
…continue the expedition, read: Walking With Spring to Hot Springs [link]