Thursday, May 18th, 2017 (Day 15)
I entered The Great Smoky Mountains National Park with a 5 mile climb from Fontana Dam. During the ascent I noticed the wings of a butterfly precariously positioned on trail. It’s body eaten, most likely. Only its beautiful wings left behind. I felt it was a metaphor for something greater, but for what I was not certain.
I was later enchanted by a twised tree with an opening to its heart. I have often thought longingly of existing within a tree. A safe space. A hug. A place of power. I placed myself inside and breathed in deeply. It smelled damp and alive. I shined my headlamp up its hollow trunk. It was teeming with bug life. It impressed me. So hollow, yet so strong and alive. I thanked it and continued on.
I approached a shelter with familiar faces sitting around a fireless pit. They were cooking their dinners or eating their snacks. I chatted with them briefly, but did not wish to stay. I would collect water from the spring near Spence Field Shelter, just over 2 miles further.
I had travelled but .5 of a mile when I heard something moving quickly and loudly in the trees to my left. I stopped suddenly. I watched and waited. I saw one run by, then spotted three or more. They were wild pigs. I was a bit nervous at first. All of the stories I had heard concerning wild pigs never ended well. They did not appear aggresive, however. Though, not terribly frightened either, as they continued down the trail in tandem with me for about one mile. I later was told that they run rampant in these woods. They cause damage and are considered “pests”. People are hired to come with guns in the night and pick them off one by one.
The shelter was aptly named. The .2 mile trail leading to it was fringed with millions of blades of tall green grass and white and purple wildflowers. After collecting water I motioned to leave. It was nearing sunset. The Ridgerunner (an Appalachian Trail Conservancy employee who is paid to enforce the rules and clean the privies) of the area was staying at the shelter that night. He made certain that I was aware of the rules: all hikers must stay the night in the designated campsite (of which there was one), or a shelter unless it is full and/or a nonthru-hiker had made a reservation for the night.
Looks like it would be my first night in a shelter. Oh, how I dislike rules.