The Smoky Mountains
A Couple Milestones
I’m a 2000 miler! Sideways, Spokes, and I all surpassed the 2000-mile barrier without a lot of fanfare, but it’s been a long time coming.
Right around that 2,000-mile mark, we hit a second milestone – reaching Clingman’s Dome. At 6,612 feet, the dome is the highest peak on the entire AT. At the top of the dome is a lookout tower.
And a couple pics of the Smokeys from the highest point. Note the Smokey-ness.
Day 137 – Standing Bear to Cosby Knob shelter (10 miles)
Day 138 – Cosby Knob shelter to Pecks Corner shelter (13 miles)
Day 139 – Pecks Corner shelter to Newfound Gap (10 miles)
Day 140 – Newfound Gap to Derrick Knob shelter (18 miles)
The Good, Bad and Ugly in the Smokeys
The Good – The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the country. The overlooks are amazing.
The Bad – Although there is no entrance fee to the Smokeys, there is a limit to parking. You must pay a reasonably small fee for a parking permit, but there is no guarantee of a space, and far more permits may be sold than space available. This causes traffic issues and general chaos, as seen here at Newfound Gap.
The Ugly – Invasive species are a problem everywhere. In the Smokeys, wild hogs are the most destructive animal, except for people. When walking the trail, it appears that they’ve uprooted every inch of the ground. They destroy native plants, reduce forage for other animals, and resulting runoff contaminates waterways for native fish.
The ground looks like this – generally and close-up.
Unfortunately, hogs are very intelligent (think Arnold Ziffell or Babe). They’re nocturnal, learn quickly, and multiply rapidly, so eradication has largely failed.
We had some cold weather in the high elevations. Following a frost warning, we had… frost.
Following a cold night, we were walking along mountain ridges with sub-freezing temperatures and 20+ mph winds. I had on nearly every piece of clothing I carry, including base layer pants, shorts, long hiking pants, base layer shirt, hiking shirt, fleece, puffy coat, raincoat, gloves and neck buff. The only clothing I wasn’t wearing were an extra pair of socks and underwear. Fortunately, after two days we were back to reasonable temps.
Mount Cammerer Fire Lookout
Shortly after entering the Smokeys, you can take a side trail to an old fire lookout.
It’s in a pretty spectacular location and you’re free to enter and even sleep in it. The views are incredible, despite some cloudiness.
Questions From the Gallery
Why do you hike shorter miles some days?
Good question. First, the days are getting shorter, so no more 6 AM departures. Moreso, days may be short to avoid rain, or to stop for resupply, or for convenience to a shelter or water.
What is a blowdown?
A blowdown is a tree that’s been blown down by the wind. It’s not an issue until it’s across a trail. Eventually, trail angels remove them, but they’re hazardous (at least for me) when head high. Since I’m frequently looking down, I occasionally find myself walking directly into these. So far, no permanent damage.
Here Sideways and Spokes model with a couple would-be head knockers.
Less than 200 miles to go!
Thanks for listening.
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