Oh my goodness! I am through the Smokys and am oh so glad! Though it was quite the adventure!
My friend Daypack and I entered the park around 1:30 one afternoon, eager to hike in the most visited national park in the US! When we started hiking it was snowing with just a few inches on the ground - no biggie, we thought, we've seen snow before. Having gotten a late start though we only made it to a campground. The problem was, my tent had broke the night before. With no other options, daypack and I had to squeeze into his one person tent. Well, it will definitely be warmer that way we figured!
When we woke up in the morning though, we were oh so pleasantly surprised to find that the sky had so kindly dumped 2 feet of snow on us. Peachy. That day it took us five hours to hike five miles to the first shelter. In single digit temperatures. With trail runners and no gaiters. So much for LNT principle número uno: Plan ahead and prepare! Surveying our options we decided to hike out eight miles the next day to a side trail so his dad coul come pick us up and rescue us (he's from TN).
We ended up staying the next four days at Daypacks house as we waited out two more winter storms hitting the smokys. Have no fear though, we utilized our time to our best possible advantage by eating, sleeping, eating, watching the entire first seasons of Walking Dead (don't know how daypack convinced me to do that), How I Met Your Mother (hilarious) and two of the Lord of the Rings movies, and eating some more.
After so many days off though I was ready to brave the Smokys again. I hiked back in and met up with a young group of hikers that included Firefeet, Summer, Skeetbutter, and Dr. Jones. While there was still two feet snow on the ground, it had warmed up to the forties and fifties, and the majority of the rest of our hike went swimmingly!
But we didn't get off so easily. Nope, Mother Nature decided to get one last laugh, and our second to last day we spent 13 miles on an exposed 5000 foot ridge line in a cloud with 30-40 miles winds and gusts of wind up to 60. There were tree blowdowns everywhere and I quite literally thought that might be the end. Well, it had been nice knowing all of ya!
Thankfully we did make it to the shelter with no casualties(!) and not a moment too soon! Not 30 minutes after we got to the shelter and it started down pouring. (and I thought it couldn't get any worse)
The next day we had about 15 more miles until we were out of the smokies and we booked it! Though as one last final hurrah, we got to hike on the trail-turned-river! Kinda makes you miss the snow, huh? Orrrr maybe not.
The next day we practically collapsed on the doormat of the Standing Bear Hostel, happy to have a day to relax, dry out, warm up, and eat lots of food!