Smoky and the Hanold
Thoughts and ruminations from the brewery and hipster capital of the South – Asheville, NC.
Yes, there it lies
It’s been over two weeks, intrepid readers, so time to catch you up on my doings since Franklin, NC. Summiting Wayah Bald and going up the old stone fire tower gives, on a clear day, a commanding view of the largest mountains on this trail – the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Yes, there it lies. Ever has North Carolina and Tennessee dwelt in its shadow. But there were other sights to see before entering the park.
NOC, NOC, NOC on Wood
The Nantahala Outdoor Center (which to my surprise is pronounced nan-tuh-HAY-luh and not nahn-tuh-HAH-luh) is a rafting and other general outdoor center that everyone I was hiking with made a pit stop at, so needless to say so did I. They have a whole competitive kayaking and canoeing course set up, and I was excited to see someone end up in the drink trying for an upstream gate, but alas nobody was unskillful or risky enough to upend themselves while I was there. Darn.
Parting is such sweet sorrow
The NOC was also where I had to say goodbye to my first real group of friends on trail. I’d caught up to them just short of Franklin and hung out with them for three or four days straight, including some fun in Franklin. Sadly, our paces just weren’t compatible and I hiked on ahead of them after a while. I’m sure this will continue to happen, it’s hard to maintain a consistent group on trail. But, you never forget your first.
Hearing about the Smokies before entering gave me the impression that it was like a dicey dive bar – you never know what’s going to happen (weather-wise), the bouncer (ranger), might kick you out at any moment for sleeping in the wrong spot, and a bear might smash a shot glass across your face.*
The lucky reality was sun for a straight week, shining a glow on the white flower meadows below the trees at the lower elevations and showing out the grand vistas as far as the eye could see. I loved the Smokies. And no bears hit me with shot glasses. I call that a win.
*Extending this analogy, the White Mountains are the biker bar where you get punched in the face repeatedly and thrown out onto the street, but dammit you head back in again for the best margarita in town.
You’ve got a friend in me
The Smokies also brought about a fortuitous turn of events – a hiking partner! I met El Salvador of the Glove on Blood Mountain (longest trail name ever? It’s exhausting to get all the way through it…) and found out that not only does she hike exactly my pace, she’s also a Survivor nerd and enjoys the Stars, both Wars and Trek. We’ve now been hiking together about ten days now, and she hasn’t smashed a shot glass in my face. I call that a win.
This is just to say that Gatlinburg is one of the most ridiculous places I’ve ever been. El Salvador called it mountain Vegas. A jumble of moonshine and Ripleys Believe it or Not and ridiculously sized milkshakes and carnival rides and hordes of people and ski lifts to nowhere and tons of neon and who knows what else. To Gatlinburg I say: WHY??
Not too long after the Smokies we crossed over Max Patch, known for its grassy open summit and 360 degree views. It was as spectacular as advertised. However, the mood is slightly spoiled by all the aggressive signage yelling to stay in the path and leave the ticks and snakes alone. Um, the ticks are the ones who need to leave me alone, not the other way around, thankyouverymuch.
Seriously though, it was disappointing to see that the gorgeous meadow had been mistreated badly enough to warrant the warnings.
Generally I don’t enjoy sitting in the Smoky-ing section but the park was an exception.
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