I just got back from an intense hike in the Smoky Mountains. Without further ado, here’s the report.
Here’s me and Nora at the start of the trip, in the Clingman’s Dome parking lot, where probably a hundred tourists have parked to make the half-mile ascent up the paved path to the highest point in the park:
But there’s a bit of a story for how we got there, which I recorded in my journal later that day:
Not a bad day of hiking — went about 5 mi. without any incidents other than a couple bone-headed wrong turns.
The first one happened at 6:30 this morning. We had gotten off to a smooth start, and pulled into the IHOP for our traditional pre-hike breakfast, when I realized I didn’t have my wallet!
U-turn, drive 15 mins back home, get wallet, change mind about IHOP and head to Denny’s.
We also took a wrong turn getting into the Smokies. The town of Cherokee, NC, gateway to the Smokies, didn’t see fit to place a sign on the turnoff into the park. A confusing map compounded the problem.
There was one more wrong turn in the parking lot since the trail we wanted to take wasn’t marked.
This cost us a half-mile, straight up the concrete path to Clingman’s Dome, the prime tourist attraction in GSMNP.
Once we were on the trail, things went swimmingly — it just took a while to get there.
Here’s a picture of Nora once we finally made it onto the right trail:
And here’s the two of us. It was a beautiful, sunny day:
… and here are the Smokies, all by themselves:
You see that lake, way off in the distance. That’s where we would be in two days. But first we needed to spend the night in the Siler’s Bald Shelter. A pleasant evening, and a decent night’s sleep, thanks to a new 2-inch thick pad that was my one luxury on the trip. Here’s a photo of the two of us getting ready to hit the trail the next morning, snapped by one of our shelter-mates:
Here’s what I said about Day 2 in my journal:
So today wasn’t all miserable, contrary to Nora’s proclamation. I mean, sure, the bugs were swarming in vast quantities, seemingly undeterred by the fact that we’d practically bathed in DEET.
There really were some charming and inspirational moments today.
Okay, so we had to ford something like six creeks in less than a mile, carefully removing our boots and donning Crocs for the crossing, then repeating in reverse.
So we finally got so frustrated by this that we resorted to hiking in our wet Crocs, squishing our way down the trail between ford after ford, in a ridiculous promenade that Nora took to calling the “Croc walk.”
And here’s some documentation of the Croc walk:
Don’t let this seemingly lovely creek fool you. It was a bear.
(click on the picture for a bigger version). Honest, this creek was incredibly annoying.
Here’s Nora on a crossing:
And here’s a movie of a crossing. Honest, it really was annoying:
Here we are after a crossing:
Yech. And my journal entry goes on:
So we were so harrassed by the devilish, nameless insects that hovered three inches from our faces. So it was like we were trapped in the back seat of a station wagon with half a million older siblings.
Despite all this, we still got to see and do some things that many people in this country never get to do. We walked over eight miles without seeing another living human.
We saw flowers so perfectly formed that we first thought someone had spilled a box of plastic cake decorations.
We saw a millipede four inches long and half an inch thick, and several other gorgeous, almost primeval centipedes and millipedes.
And we arrived at 3:30 p.m. to a beautiful (if still somewhat buggy) campsite, next to a roaring creek, and it looks like tonight, we’re going to have this whole place to ourselves.
More about the hike soon…