Magic in the Smokies (164.7 -> 239.1)

The Great Smoky Mountains are so incredible, they deserve their own blog post. So, here it is!

Days 1 & 2

The first two days in the Smokies were pretty similar to the terrain we had been hiking through previously. Lots of brown- leaves on the ground, bare trees, and mountains in the distance. It didn’t really feel like we had entered a national park… yet. I had no idea what was to come!

Day 3

Day 3 was when our surroundings started to change a bit. After a midday lunch break, I saw some pine trees up ahead. Suddenly, we entered a whole new forest full of pine, moss-covered rocks and logs, and so much green covering the trees and ground! I could feel the cool moisture in the air, and everything smelled like pine.

My hiking partner, Christian, in the first pine forest we hiked through!

Shortly after that, we reached our 200th mile of the AT, as well as the highest point on the AT- Clingman’s Dome! At 6,658 feet, we could see mountains for miles all around us.

Christian and I at Clingman’s Dome

Day 4

On day 4 in the Smokies, we woke up in a bit of a panic. There was a storm coming, and due to high winds and fire danger, the road into the town of Gatlinburg was going to be closed. This was a problem for some of us who needed to go into town to resupply in order to have enough food to get through the Smokies. We quickly hiked the 4.5 miles to get to the road, with the mindset that we would figure out what to do next when we got there.

When we arrived at the road, we were met by some day hikers who arrived before the road closure and offered to shuttle two groups of us hikers down to town! We were so thankful for their kindness and willingness to go out of their way to help us.

A couple members of my tramily and I spent the night in Gatlinburg, due to the 100 mph winds that would be going through the Smokies that night. Gatlinburg was a shock to the senses- if you don’t know what it is, it’s a super touristy town that is essentially the definition of consumer capitalism. The stark contrast of the beautiful Smokies compared to all the shops, cars, noise, trash, and thousands of people in Gatlinburg was shocking to me.

Day 5

I was so excited to leave Gatlinburg and get back on trail the next day. Day 5 was the most magical day in the Smokies yet. Luckily the storm had cleared out, and we were left with beautiful, sunny, 50 degree weather. We hiked a few miles to Charlie’s Bunion, where I soaked in my favorite views of the trail so far.

Charlie’s Bunion. The picture doesn’t do it justice!

We spent the rest of the day hiking along a beautiful ridge line. We got a late start, so we were lucky enough to see the sun setting over the pine-covered mountains. It was a truly magical day.

Day 6

Just when I thought the Smokies couldn’t get any more magical, they did. We woke up to an inch or so of snow covering everything!

Snow!

The snow and clouds blowing through made for the most amazing views on the ridge line. I peered through the snow-covered pine trees to see the mountain peaks in the foreground peeking up through the blowing clouds, and a line of clouds that we were almost level with us in the background. In that moment I felt so truly happy to be present; to be right where my feet were.

Again, pictures don’t do justice to the magic of this view!

Day 7

Day 7 was our last day in the Smokies. I honestly felt really sad leaving the park- I was going to miss the place where I really started to feel the magic of the mountains. Luckily we had one more beautiful view to experience before leaving- Mount Cammerer. We hiked down a 0.6 mile side trail to reach the view. As we neared the end, it started to get rocky. I climbed up on some rocks and was met with a beautiful view of the blue mountains stretching out in front of me!

I turned around and was able to see the huge, 6000-foot mountains that I had just come from. As I took in the views, I reflected on what I had just done- hiked 70+ miles through beautiful, towering mountains; through high winds, below-freezing temperatures, and snow; up and down thousands of feet of elevation. I felt proud, humbled, and thankful. The Smokies were truly magical and changed my experience of thru-hiking for the better, and I hope to carry their impact with me for the rest of the trail!

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Comments 1

  • Bobby : Apr 15th

    I enjoyed Katie’s post about the Smokies. As a section hiker ,biologist and local to the North Carolina mountains, those pines are not pine trees, it’s the spruce for forest endemic to these hills above 5,000 feet. The Frasier fir ,aka most popular Christmas tree, grows wild and free from Roan Mountain to the Smokies ..it’s that smell you smell when hiking the AT through the Smokies. I love being up there and it’s perhaps my favorite forest type in the southern Appalachians.

    Good luck on your hike and hope you make it to Maine. My nephew through hiked it in 2015. I have done the Smokies, Whites , Georgia and Khatadin and parts here and there .

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