After looking at the weather for the next week or so we see that it’s going to be the best we’ve had in a long time, so we are going to take advantage of that and skip ahead to knock out the Smokys. We took the two and a half hour drive from Devil Fork Gap to Newfound Gap, the only road open in the Smokys. We went to the rangers station to get our backcountry permit first. They told us that they wouldn’t even think of hiking this section without crampons. Bummer, we don’t have any! They told us to go check the outfitter down in Gatlinburg. $20 later, permit in hand we were setting off to go find crampons at 7pm on a saturday night. We went down to the large NOC outfitter and unfortunately they didn’t have any that would fit Buddy’s small shoe size. One employee there did however suggest looking online at how to make them yourself out of sheet metal screws. It sounded painful and dangerous the way he was describing them, but once we did some research online, it looked pretty easy and like they would work very well. They had a big rock climbing wall in the middle of the store and Buddy wanted to try it out! So we waited a long while for our turn, then he gave it his best shot. He didn’t quite make it to the top, but he did great and had a blast! He was so proud of himself and we were too. Once we got back on the search for a hardware store we realized that little was still open in that town. Luckily for us Home Depot in Pigeon Forge was still open and only a 45 minute drive. They weren’t going to be able to get through the Smokys without them, so off we went!
Driving through Pigeon Forge is like driving through Vegas built for kids. There are hundreds and hundreds of attractions built right on the road of a several mile stretch. What a change from being in the woods to driving through tourist attraction capital of the USA. There was mini golf, bumper cars, roller coasters, huge ferris wheels, buildings that looked like castles, a titanic ship replication that was actually an aquarium, a skyscraper with King Kong climbing up and it just kept going and going. We could not believe our eyes. None of us have ever seen anything like it before. Luckily Buddy had fallen asleep before we drove through this, I didn’t want to over stimulate his mind with all these flashing lights and neon signs! We got what we needed from Home Depot, and Dion made great screw crampons for him and Buddy. They turned out great and no shoes were ruined in the process!
We found somewhere to stay along the road up to New Found Gap late that night. When we woke in the morning we had to pack up all their stuff for the next two days in Dion’s backpack. There weren’t any good side trails to hike in to meet them with their gear, so for the very first night of this 7 month journey, I will not be able to stay with my boys. This is kind of unnerving because I am obsessive about them being safe, but I know that as long as Buddy is with Dion, I couldn’t have less to be worried about. So, with packs stuffed full I dropped them off at New Found Gap at 9am this morning. The weather was perfect as they set off for the two day northern stint of the Smokys down to Davenport Gap. I will wait it out at Dancing Bear with Pirate and Lumpy (What characters!! I couldn’t love them more!) until tomorrow afternoon when I will meet them at the trail head!