Hiking in the clouds might sound romantic but it is no fun. So today was all business. We needed 21 miles to get out of the Smokies and, then finally we would be able to camp wherever we wanted again. You had to camp at designated shelters all through the Smokies so it put restrictions on your mileage. We also hoped that, maybe, just maybe, we would get to hike in something other than a cloud. We did run into Walkie Talkie in the rain and she had some words of wisdom to share. She said the rain was starting to get her down, but then she remembered her husband talking about being in Vietnam and how no one was ever dry, their feet were rotting away, and her husband saw someone killed over a dry towel. Yup, that did it. Everything was back in perspective. Tomorrow would be her birthday, but as we wanted to escape the park and her section would be over, we would miss it! After about six miles, and a pause in the rain, we stopped at the next shelter for lunch. There we met Rabbit, Duckfart, and Truck Nuts (strangest names yet). It was really nice to have banter with them. We are pretty sick of discussing pack weights and brands.
*Plane crash wreckage just off the trail
After we got about twelve miles, we ended up in some clearings, which, of course, coincided with torrential rains and heavy winds. We ran to a large pine to poncho up, and waited for the weather to subside a bit. Of course, the rains only lessened for a few minutes at a time for the next hour. So, we ran across the clearing from pine to pine to fruitless attempt to save our shoes from the rain.
*The most fashionable of styles
We had a feeling that, after the twenty mile day, we would catch Funky Stuff, so we asked around whenever we passed a shelter. At Cosby shelter, someone finally recognized the name, and ominously said he had moved on. We assumed that didn't mean he was dead, so we knew we were close. A couple crossed paths with us in a gap following Cosby. They asked some questions about AT thru hiking, since they have been toying with the idea themselves. They live close to the Smokies and are active members of the 900 mile club, that is hiking all 900 miles of the smokies. They were going for their second completion. Incredible. We trudged on like machines for the final six, only stopping briefly to grab some water at the final shelter, Davenport. Just a couple of miles to go! At this point it was pretty dark, but not quite dark enough for headlamps. Of course, by the time we made the 21.7 miles, we needed the headlamp for the tent. We also heard the dreaded Alarm Clock Bird in the distance, which we have since learned is a Whipperwill. We set up camp, on a pretty silly slant, made a ton of Mac n Cheese and solemnly swore we wouldn't wake up the next day before ten.