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.

Changing Weather

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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Comments 6

  • Pat : Oct 11th

    Congratulations on 2,000 miles to Sideways, Spokes, and Propensity! The views amaze; mountains and forests as far as one can see. Must be a joy to experience.

  • Jingle Bells : Oct 12th

    I enjoy the blog. I always appreciate the direct simplicity you use. Thanks for doing it. Not sure you ever reply here, but if you do, how have the water sources been in the N half of the Smokies up to say Hot Speings? (ie your last week or so on trail) (I’m doing that section starting 10/21)

    • Tom Czako : Oct 12th

      Hi Jingle Bells, the water sources are running slow, but we had no real issues filling up. We typically carried 2 liters and always discussed water with hikers from the opposite direction.

      • Jingle bells : Oct 13th

        Thanks Tom, really appreciate it. All the best in finishing your epic journey. There are some VERY MILD boulder scrambles (maybe can’t even call them scrambles…) south of Fontana which you’ve done or will do any minute. I have funny memory there. Only time I’ve ever fallen on trail – going super slow motion on super simple scramble. Funny now, not funny if I had gotten injured. Thanks again for answer and sharing blog.

  • thetentman : Oct 12th

    Excellent pics and nice post. Good luck.

  • Jake Cutter : Oct 13th

    I have seen some big rattlers around Mount Cammerer. The trick to Newfound Gap and Clingman’s Dome is to get there early (8ish) and leave by midday.


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