At long last and with great trepidation… we entered the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. And just like every time we’ve entered a National Park on this trip, it started to rain. For four days. But just like our time in the Shenandoah National Park (AKA Joaquin’s Reign of Terror), all the hikers in the area banded together to deal together.
Thus we found ourselves in the largest group of Southbounders since… at least New England. Twelve hikers packed into the shelter on the last day of November after two days of rain. Luckily, the shelters in the Smokies all have built in fireplaces. So we spent the time drying our boots, telling stories, and desperately clinging to warmth. With combined body heat plus the heat of the fire, you could see everyone steaming in their clothes. It was wet, the privy seemed impossibly far after you’d gotten into dry clothes, and there was a chill out but with eleven other people sharing your discomfort, it was all funny rather than hard.
That is, especially when Powerslide and Jolly invited everyone to “Timeshare Tuesday” in Gatlinburg! Waking up on December first to Powerslide’s Spotify Christmas Jam and an invitation to go dry out at their friend’s timeshare in Gatlinburg was the best season’s greetings a hiker has ever behold.
The temperature had stayed moderate throughout the rain storm but was scheduled to take a serious dip when the clouds broke. Only a fool wouldn’t take up the offer to dry out. If we hadn’t, all of our gear would have surely frozen (we’ve been walking in snow and ice for the majority of the Smokies). So that night, we were picked up by David and Cameron and taken into the city where they cooked everyone a big spaghetti dinner.
With twelve hikers, all from different places and circumstances, there were characters abound. Rockfish, who had just hit the 17,000 trail miles mark, took the occasion to wax his curly ‘stache. Little Spoon, a girl from “middle of nowhere” Alaska, told us stories of driving a team of sled dogs to school growing up. Chatter, hailing from Athens, GA, told us about her brother’s thru-hike, then her best friend’s thru-hike, which sparked her inevitable hike. Solar Body, a thru-hiker from Korea, showed us some of the documentary footage he has been shooting along the way. And 18-year-old Jolly talked himself out of buying his girlfriend a purse for Christmas to us (“She was being way too specific!”).
It was a wonderful time and such a fortunate opportunity for us all.
But this immensely generous invitation is characteristic of Powerslide and Jolly, a father (Powerslide) and son (Jolly) duo from Birmingham, Alabama. These two began their hike when Jolly graduated high school this year, but the hike was not just an opportunity for bonding. They planned this hike in support of the same family that took a bunch of stinking, wet, filthy hikers into their double apartment timeshare in Gatlinburg.
Powerslide and Jolly have raised over $16,000 dollars in their local communities for David’s daughter, Julie, who suffers from Rett Syndrome. “Rett syndrome is a neurodevelopmenal disorder that affects girls almost exclusively. It is characterized by normal early growth and development followed by a slowing of development, loss of purposeful use of the hands, distinctive hand movements, slowed brain and head growth, problems with walking, seizures, and intellectual disability.” The life expectancy of a person affected by Rett Syndrome is typically 20 years, although some don’t get as much time as that.
Our hearts go out to this family and other families with children affected by Rett Syndrome, a condition that before now I had no idea existed. However, as is often the case, these people who have seen considerable hardship in their lives remain kind and generous to others.
If anyone would like to learn more about Rett Syndrome a good place to start is at:
Or, to directly help Julie and research for Rett Syndrome, you can visit Powerslide and Jolly’s website:
We have made it out of the Smokies now, unscathed and unfrozen thanks to our friends. We have less than 200 miles to go! Neither Treasure Hunter or I want the trail to end… so we have slowed down a bit (sorry! not sorry…). We will likely be home in about two weeks.