Day 21-23: Mile 207 – 248
Chris and I made it out of the Smokies! We had an ambitious goal of getting from Gatlinburg to Hot Springs, NC in 5 days, which is roughly 75 miles.
To catch you up on the weather in the Smokies, basically after my day full of rain on Sunday, Monday dumped a bunch of snow which kept the main road back to the trail closed and many anxious hikers in Gatlinburg until the road reopened on Tuesday midday. Nothing good comes from trapping hikers in a touristy town, including Chris and I trying to hunt down a closed down ranger station because the National Park Service refused to update their Twitter feed (which is evidently their main source for updating the public, just FYI)!
Anywho, we made it to Newfound Gap on Tuesday, thanks to our coworker Kerry shuttling us around, to begin our hike.
While it may seem like a big accomplishment to be standing at the TN line here, and it is, it should also be noted that for the next several days and for my foreseeable future, the trail actually steps back and forth over the NC and TN state lines over and over. Much of the first day for Chris and I actually was hiking along a ridgeline that is essentially the stateline.
The next three days were beautiful as expected. The Smokies were filled with amazing views and such different environments with sections of mossy trees to spring flowers to the remaining signs of mud and ice of the last snow storm.
The last three days of walking out of the Smokies went by quick. Although I had quite the negative chip on my shoulder for the Smokies after my rain storm experience, looking back, I will admit the park creates some irreplaceable views. My one major takeaway though is, if you like unpredictable adventure then I’d highly recommend taking a camping trip in the Great Smokies because it will not disappoint!
On the last day, as we hiked the last 7 miles out of the park, we took a blue blazed trail to see another fire tower on top of Mount Cammerer. This one was built in the 1930s and still remains in good condition, providing some impeccable views of the surrounding scenary and a final goodbye to the mountains within the Smokies.
The Smokies gave me a few things I had been avoiding and resisting, including a major rainstorm, hiking in snow, and the opportunities to sleep in trail shelters. As much as I would prefer to not to deal with most of those, it’s all part of the trail which is filled with the good, bad and the ugly sometimes.
Throughout the last few days, I kept telling myself that sometimes it’s best to live outside your comfort zone because things may come along that may surprise you and help you grow. The Smokies may weed people out but luckily thus far, I am not one of them.