I woke up at NOC and managed to wake Silver up (I never sleep all that well in new indoor places-the shelters are all starting to feel similar, so I sleep well there) accidentally. We ate a delicious breakfast at the restaurant, piddled around with the Picnic sisters while waiting for the outfitters to open (got in a little after 4, when they closed) at 10am. Finally, it did so I ran in to get my packages. Decided I was an idiot for wanting my snowshoes and had to head over to the offices to send them back. Which I did, after I bought a dinner or two plus some snacks-this was supposed to get me through the majority of the smokies after all.
Ended up taking a while, but the hike today would be a short one, even if it was ALL up hill. Silver had left a half hour before I did and I didn't expect to see him. And so I didn't. The first part was a decent hike, a few blowdowns, but nothing awful. And then, a couple miles in, it just became completely awful. As it turns out, we arrived a few days/a week too early, because the recent storms had created severe blow downs that hadn't been cleared. I had to climb over/around/under rhododendron bushes and trees that had fallen over. The sides of the mountain were completely wrecked from previous hikers doing the same thing and I'm positive they had to reroute at points. It was complete misery trying to get through it.
And then I ran into Count (named for reading Dracula, I believe) who had turned around. he had needed to be halfway to Fontana Dam on this day but he couldn't find the trail, so he was going to shuttle around tomorrow. Told me to call him if we could find it in the morning. (note-I think I can find his number still in my phone) Met some 'day hikers' (overnighters) who were heading down a half mile before the shelter and finally pulled in, seeing Silver. Ate my dinner just as the picnic sisters came in. Mashed potatoes so kindly donated by silver, seeing as how I'd not eaten them before from a package. He got half since I couldn't finish it all.
Fell asleep to the sound of the picnic sisters playing bananagrams. We all stayed on the second story of the shelter.
One interesting thing I remember: a tree by the spring fell over just after Bou came back from getting water. Very lucky she wasn't hurt.