April 12: Last night we were at a shelter, when a number of hikers from the shelter four miles behind us trundled in fairly late in the evening. They were told by the forest service that the forest fire was behind us and heading our way. We had just hiked through 20 miles of burned forest from last year. We went to sleep knowing that the road was only 2 miles away at the next Gap. We saw the fire from the fire tower on mt Albert earlier that day. Apparently arsonists are trying to repeat last years fiasco of fires. At any rate, the hikers from the other shelter proved to be a little overly hysterical and we bugged out early in the morning for the five mile hike to winding stair Gap. From there we caught a hitch into town (Franklin) where most hikers are taking a zero day to resupply and rest before the push into Fontana dam and the Great Smoky National Park. Joe’s lingering ailments and my birthday being tomorrow contributed to our joint decision to take a zero. It appears that 40 or 50 other hikers we have been tracking are doing the same. Having showered twice, laundered, walmarted, we are ready to hit the two local breweries for some calories for the push into the smokies. Pictured is the forest service fire trucks keeping the fire off the trail. Go fire ranger guys! Happy trails, I could use another beer.

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