Today I came down from the high ridges in the Smokies: last night I slept at 5,900 feet and tonight I am only at 2,700.  This has the effect of taking me back in time with respect to the seasons.  At the higher elevations fall was well advanced, with almost all the leaves off the deciduous trees.  (Above 5,500 feet there are also extensive areas of conifers.  It was like walking in a typical western Canadian forest.)  At the lower elevations the fall colours are still on display.  The leaves are mostly yellow or brown,  but there are sugar maples and sour wood trees to add crimson splashes.

                               Wreckage from 1984 jet fighter crash – both pilots were killed

Someone at the shelter this morning had the popular Gut Hooks app for the AT.  It indicated that the 14 mile walk today involved climbing 2,000 feet and descending 5,500 feet.  I believe these are typical numbers for a day on the AT.  It’s a lot of up and down.

With all that up and down it is hard to hold onto your fat.  This evening I asked a SOBO thru hiker how much weight he had lost during his months on the trail.  He said 60 pounds, but admitted that he had been heavy at the outset.  The thru hiker said he had heard that the average weight loss for thru hikers is about 30 pounds.  He had no idea how you would do it if you started lean.  I have encountered long distance hikers that were quite distressed by their limited energy resulting from not eating enough.  One woman said “I was off the trail for a week but I didn’t eat enough and now I have no energy.”  This of course is a rare sentiment in a western world awash in excess calories.

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