Intro to the Smokies

N 35°30.1450′
Late night. We clambered our way into camp at 21:30. Tired, hungry, but still smiling.
 A package had been stalling our exit from Fontana Dam for a whole day. “The Hilton” offered excellent views of the Smokies- a great place to wait out a package delivery. We even got a sunrise wake-up over the Smokies and across Fontana Lake.
 We started hiking at 18:30. Package in hand, we dashed up a 2000ft climb into the mountains. As the sun fell, a fire watch tower enticed an opportunity to see the sunset over the mountain range. A hard-fought ascent got us to and up the structure.
 It swayed in the breeze. The sides shook in the winds. And the floors bent and creaked under our weight. None of that was heeded.
 The orange glow stuck to the outline of the Smoky Mountains. The last light of day clung to the contours of the ridges to be climbed tomorrow… and the next day… and the next. The boys went down and I stood up there alone. Wind chimes translated the music on the wind. The Smokeys communicated to me that all will be given, yet we’ll see it through.
 And to think, all that started with waiting for a damned package.
N 35°33.7868′
The camp filled with a grey light. Peaking through the vestibule, I saw the viscous clouds flow up a valley. It is going to rain today.
The morning pleased us with a calm, but as the day built so did the storm. I passed a mountain field of white flower tops. They drooped in preparation for the rain. Shortly after, it was a full-blown storm of the mountains.
The 50ft trees abutting the trail swirled erratically like the Whomping Willow from Harry Potter. Wind blew through the gaps and over peaks. My water-laden pack acted like a sail, pulling me over the edge of the trail. The moments of calm in the rhododendron gave reprieve from the winds but harbored the cold.
All and all a rough day. Everyone who came into camp had a look of thanks- a reliable place of warmth welcomed them. We filled the shelter with laughter and a fire’s heat.
We should hit Clingman’s Dome on Thursday- the one day promising warm, clear weather ☺️
N 35°36.6578′
Everyone moved slow this morning. The thought of a cold march up and down thousands of feet of elevation in damp clothing kept most in their sleeping bags. I looked for every task possible before donning my soaked clothes. We got out of camp surprisingly early.
As we walked the sky rolled and crashed in the distance. More rain, yay. My feet, sopping wet, folded from pruning and pressure, slowed my progress. The next shelter felt out of reach.
The warmth of the sun greeted us again at the closest shelter. It warmed the Earth and the spirit. All delighted in a well-wanted ray of sun. To hike more or revel? I napped for a moment with the hot fragrance of warmed earth.
This is what I envisioned when I thought of the AT- a hard day halted in favor of smiles and self-care.
With that thought, Gatlinburg called my name: resupply, rest, and descent into warmth.
I found myself on the ascent up Clingman’s. The tall forest gave way to stunted oaks, then again into a dense temperate rainforest. The sunlight, sparsely touching the ground, created a glowing green on the edge of moss-covered branches. Hemlock, so sweet, had it been confectionaries it’d of been putrid, filled every corner of the nose. A mystical place.
Looking out over the Smokies revealed a distant mountain, Standing Indian. That was at mile 86… we’re at 200… I looked north- the blue haze shrouded a distant future.
I came into town dirty, tired, and crazed. Meeting up with Lumen and Bucket was a sight! People pulled their kids from us. Clean-cut and cologne-pungent citizens gave up on side-eyes and stared. We laughed the whole way into a convenience store, where we filled up on ice cream and beer.
We got stuck for four days! A winter storm cut our only entrance to the mountains. Stir-crazy, we began to contemplate an ascent of Mt LeConte, the highest point in the Smokies, and beheld 10 inches of snow. Thankfully, the roads opened up before we went that route.

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 1

  • Tish/Jg : Apr 25th

    Nice to meet y’all in the Smokies! Had been waiting to read this one! I remember hearing you say you blogged for The Trek! We stayed at Tri Corner with y’all the day it rained allll day. Looking forward to reading about your finish at Mt.K!!!


What Do You Think?