Stuck in Gatlinburg!
It was all going swimmingly through the Smokies. It was the third day, we’d climbed the surprisingly easy route up to Clingmans dome, the sun was shining and the terrain becoming easier and very beautiful.
Then we began to hear rumours of impending stormy weather… Wind and even snow was being forecast, according to people we met along the trail. Our plan had been to do a 13.5 mile day to Mount Collins shelter, then hike the 4.5 miles to Newfound Gap in the morning, hitch into Gatlinburg, resupply and spend the night, before heading back out to the trail in the morning. However, with all the rumours of bad weather, and as we felt quite fresh and spritely, we decided at the last minute to push straight on into Gatlinburg that night and take a full zero the next day.
And how glad we were that we did.
Howling winds of apparently up to 80 mph started at about 4am and sent trees and branches flying everywhere. Talking to those people who’d still been up on the mountain it sounds like they had the hike from hell as they dashed for the gap watching the trees for falling branches in the dark.
Rangers picked up some of the people coming down from the mountains at Newfound gap, and an exciting ride into Gatlinburg that involved stopping to chainsaw fallen trees out of the road along the way ensued. But my heart really goes out to those poor souls who arrived after that, when the Rangers couldn’t send vehicles up there any more due to the danger from flying debris, and the road was closed. I’ve heard about at least one person who walked the 15 miles from the gap into Gatlinburg yesterday morning. I don’t envy them, we saw one woman literally pushed off her feet from the wind, and power lines were coming down around town.
So that’s that, the road out is still closed for the second day, and Gatlinburg is full of hikers wandering around going ‘This place is bizarre’
For Gatlinburg is an odd place. It’s as though someone took the ‘little row of shops’ part of Disneyland or Alton Towers and made that a town, but there’s no theme park. Or transplanted Las Vegas, minus the casinos, into the middle of the Smokies. There’s plenty of Mini golf, and wall to wall themed restaurants, but no actual attraction. Coming out of the beautiful mountains, we feel like we’ve wandered into the Twilight zone…
So fingers crossed that they open the only road out of here tomorrow before we all either succumb to the lure of the salt and pepper shaker museum, (actually a thing. I kid you not) or run out of cash. But all is not lost, we hear Dolly Parton will be leading a parade through town this afternoon. Amazing.
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