As soon as we got off the Ramsey Cascade trail on Monday we drove straight over to Newfound Gap to pack up for Icewater Springs Shelter and Charlie’s Bunion. There was no time to waste, we were burning daylight! We had 2.7 miles to hike to the shelter, it was 3:45pm, and a casual/good hiking pace is one mile per hour. Luckily our muscles were primed from all of our other hikes we had taken so far on this road trip, and we made it to the shelter in 1.5 hours. We ended up having plenty of time to cook, collect firewood, and meet our shelter-mates all before the sunset.
Our new friends were 4 guys from Michigan who were on a guyz hiking trip. A couple of them had been to the Smokies before, and a couple were new to backpacking. They were quite a trip! While Mike and I cooked and split a Mountain House meal, these guys were cooking steaks and potatoes and sipping drinks! They were going all out, and it was awesome. I still would prefer Ramen Noodles and freeze dried meals to carrying the weight they had on their backs, but the steaks were proof you don’t have to sacrifice everything for the sake of pack weight as long as you’re willing to carry it. Their heavy blocks of cheese and fudge told me they were willing.
Mike and I and the Michigan boyz hung out and talked until about 8 or 9 when an Appalachian Trail section hiker from the Carolinas going by the name of Easy E came strolling in. He was an easy going and polite guy who was on the trail to meditate over some personal life changes. The fellas from Michigan shared a steak and beer with him, and we all listened and asked questions about his travels.
We were just getting ready to settle into our sleeping bags when an odd group of four, including a girl who seemed about 11 years old, walked into the shelter. One guy had a red fanny pack and sat there eating Cheetos without speaking while an older man smoked cigarettes and told stories about being a truck driver and bears. He seemed to like being the center of the conversation, which was good because we were all dozing off as he babbled about college football. No one saw them go to bed or leave, but in the morning there was no trace of them.
Mike and I, the Michigan boys, and Easy E made up stories about what happened with the odd group while we made breakfast and cleaned up on Tuesday morning. Mike and I were packed up first so we said our goodbyes and headed to Charlie’s Bunion without our packs since we had to pass back through the shelter on the way to the van. The view from the bunion was panoramic as promised and was a perfect way to bid the Smokies adieu.