Sunday 07 May to Monday 15 May
Distance: 106.1 km
Elevation levels according to Guthook app: total ascent 4791.8m, total descent 5301.7m
Mountains climbed: never stopped
The Smokies Trail
Few stretches of the Appalachian Trail are more remote or difficult then the section through the Great Smokies. Here the trail follows some of the highest ridges in the Appalachians, paralleling the Tennessee-North Carolina border for 70 miles. At one shelter there were two water sources meters from the shelter; one in Tennessee and the other in North Carolina.
Hiking this section was extremely hard, arduous, breath taking and satisfying. The trail itself can be summed up in four pictures:
Rocks, rocks, rocks
Annoying tree roots
The Smokies views
At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and highest point on the trail. However true to form when I got up there this is what I saw (apologies for sound it was really windy):
The Smokies was so hard there were days I had no inclination to take photos or side trails to better views. After so many days of walking, so many dramatic sights, when I am huffing and puffing my guts out trying to will my legs to walk up another mountain or clamber over more boulders, taking photos of the views can become secondary.
That said the following are photos I reckon show the diversity of plant life, the difference the varying elevations has on plant life and how high I climbed.
The endless view
It took me 10 days to complete the Smokies, which was longer than expected. Unfortunately I got a stomach bug which was very unpleasant and meant I could not walk for long before I had to stop and make camp completely exhausted. This lasted three days and luckily was not the noro virus as I couldn’t vomit and couldn’t poop.
Lucky for me I have been a part of a really cool little hiker family (and larger caring hiker community) where we watch out for one another. On the first day the bug really affected me I was supposed to meet Imposter at one of the shelters, however couldn’t make it due to feeling so bad so asked a couple of random hikers if they could pass the message onto him.
They did, and it just so happened that there was a ridge runner (A volunteer that walks along the trail assisting hikers with information et cetera and ensuring that we are doing what we are supposed to) staying at the shelter with Imposter so she looked for me the next day to check on me and to ascertain what it was that I might have in case I had to get off the mountain. However once she realised I didn’t have noro virus she did advise me to check for ticks just in case and of course told me to potentially take a couple of days off as soon as I got out of the Smokies.
So my hiker family: it just so happened that my hiker family was staggered over a few days which meant that Dash and Greanie did a full naked back tick check for me and found nothing- whew. Then they continued on. The next day Betty Crocker turned up and checked on me making sure I was eating something. By the fourth day I was definitely starting to feel better however had I needed Butter Bear was coming through – so during this time I felt really supported and cared for 😊
The Smokies Animals
Apparently in the Smokies I had a really good opportunity to spot a Black Bear – didn’t see a one. I was reminded of my Nullabor trip, signs everywhere warning of wombat, camel, Roo and Emu…I saw 1 Roo and 1 Emu.
I managed to see deer, butterflies everywhere and a turkey – the turkey is hard to see, but he was big (made me think of roast turkey of course) with a blue head and was strutting his stuff. Oh and Bear poo/scat so you knew they were around.
Wild hogs have presented quite an issue in the Smokies since the 1950’s which is unfortunate and there are approximately 20 special sites that have been identified for fencing against wild hogs. These sites contain Beech forest communities that are unique to the Southern Appalachians.
I resupplied in Gatlinburg which was extremely expensive and not a lot of choice…since I didn’t catch the tram to Food city – I couldn’t be bothered because I was sweltering in my rain jacket as I had to wait for hours for my clothes to be laundered – long boring story.
Anyway so that was my trip through the Smokies. My Trail legs are starting to kick in, but I have contacted my old personal trainer for some tips and advice to help things along and have had to order new shoes already. 😊