Today was a nearo meaning wd go just a few miles to resupply in town and don't head back to the trail until the following day. Not all nearos need to be in town, but a nearo is just a few miles, whatever that means to the individual. We had to hike .5 miles from Mt. Collins (yeah, the shelter was .5 miles off the trail, total bogus) then four miles to Newfound Gap. We spent the morning with Tenacious, which was great. It was great to catch up with a familiar face for a while and hear what's been going on. As she stays in shelters and is generally more social than us, she has met a lot of people along the way; many names we recognized, many we did not. We did find out that when she was born her spine had been crushed so she was completely paralyzed in her right arm; it's functional now, but she doesn't bother carrying a trekking pole in that arm since it's not as strong. Who are these power people we are meeting?
1.7 miles before Newfound Gap is Indian Gap and, lo and behold, out of the mists the shuttle from the First Baptist Church of Sevierville was waiting and saw us emerge. Since the mists were turning to rain (and by mists I mean the eternal cloud that has followed us since our first day in the Smokies), we couldn't say yes fast enough. And back to Gatlinburg we went.
The shuttle is completely free, they just ask you write your name and hometown in a little notebook (trail name that is). Also, the driver, whose name we unfortunately have forgotten (not Ken who usually drives, the guy who drives on Tuesday), anyways the driver bought donuts. We did unfortunately experience some trail greed though. The driver had bought a dozen donuts. But when we got in the shuttle, there were three left. But only 8 people in the shuttle. One person had eaten three donuts. The remaing people each had one which, if one's math is careful, left one donut. So when the last two people (ten is the shuttle capacity) got on, there was only one left. Don't worry though, the person that had eaten three ate the fourth and final donut to save the last two people from having to decide who got it. We do meet a lot of great people, but, damn, no matter where you go it seems you can't fully escape jerks.
We got to the Gatlinburg NOC at around 10:30 am, which was a thru hiker social extravaganza. We ran into Andrew (Spike), Bambiface, and Greg (Four Seasons) and made plans to have dinner. They also gave us the skinny on laundry which was complicated in Gatlinburg. We also saw Hand Solo and Tree Hugger, Walkie Talkie made an appearance. Her and Mother Goose made it to town this morning rather than the night before. They got into Clingman's really late and spent the rainy night in the bathroom. We met a few new hikers including Cuddles and Botany. The Cuddles and Huggables meeting was a great. Botany told us about his endeavors to learn more about medicine and foods from local plants from a book he was reading. A braver dude than either of us. He was waiting for a new credit card to arrive as his got canceled cuz of the usual fraud protection stuff, so we offered to get him lunch.
After about an hour of chatting we headed to the hotel. We ended up at the Econo Lodge since they had a room ready right away which was necessary to get a bit dried out since everything we owned had been wet for at least two days. The woman who was working the front desk may have been an trail angel in disguise. Which also is a reminder that we have to get better at getting people's names to give them proper thank yous. She was the sweetest woman the south had to offer for certain.
We got to our room, feeling more human already, proceeded to creatively hang all of our wet things and headed to Five Guys for lunch. We ate lunch with Botany and Sweet Potato. Afterwards, they invited us to play pool, but we had our errands to run since we wanted to return to the trail the next day. Emily headed to get some work done, Tyler headed to laundry.
Spike, Bambi, and Four Seasons had some detergent so Tyler grabbed some, took their offer of a beer, and then went to the laundry, and returned to socialize while the laundry was laundered by the usual machines. Tyler briefly went back to the hotel, showered for the second or third time, and we headed to Loco Burro with the 3 detergent fairies. Much celebrating was performed. The Loco Burro had a mechanical donkey that went neglected because we were too sore from hiking. The three of them will be back on the trail on Thursday or Friday, so we will miss Greg's surprise and strange hellos when we least expect them until then.
Finally, we headed back to the hotel to get a little, way too little, vegetation time before the trail the next day.