One day of Amazing Adventure in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

A 12 hour drive from my home is the most visited National Park in the country – The Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  This park is visited more than the Grand Canyon!  I can see why, it is spectacular!

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The Appalachian Trail runs right through the Smokies so of course I decided I must walk a little bit of the trail while I visited.  The weather has been perfect for outdoor play.

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The 360 degree view from Clingman’s Dome Tower is amazing.  The hike up to the tower is at a 13 degree grade.  It is steep!  Clingman’s Dome is the highest point on the Appalachian Trail, so it was important for me to visit this place first.  It was worth every staggering step and drop of sweat.

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We encountered a few thru hikers at the tower, but I was too shy to approach them.  I just stared and looked like a creeper.  When we climbed up the tower an honest to goodness thru hiker took our picture for us.  He was a military man, but again, I was too shy to ask many questions.

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I had planned out a very short hike on the Appalachian Trail after hiking Clingman’s Dome.  It was just 1.7 miles from Road Prong trail head to Newfound Gap.  Easy.  Dave dropped me off at the trail head and I posed for the obligatory first steps/first white blaze ever on the AT photos.

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My boot hit the narrow trail and my heart skipped a beat.  My adrenaline flooded into my body and all the sudden I became very nervous, anxious, excited, happy, overwhelmed, you name it, I felt it.  I walked a few feet into the trail and saw my second white blaze.  Realizing I should not be out of breath so soon, and why were my knees shaking?  I stopped to check myself and my surroundings.  My brain was still wrapping itself around the fact that I was on the AT.  I took a deep breath of the mountain air, did a little spin in the middle of trail, looked up, looked down, to the left and to the right.  Finally, I propelled myself forward on the trail easily, knowing Dave was waiting for me at the trail head at Newfound Gap.  I told him to give me one hour.

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The trail itself was in great shape.  There were stairs built out of logs and you could see where some trees had fallen and they were recently cleared away from the path.  Trail maintainers are heroes in my book!  I gracefully tripped over a root or two, grateful for my hiking poles keeping me upright.  There were magnificent little white flowers in bloom so it looked like it had snowed.  I thought it looked like a fairy land!

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There was an enclosure that I had to hike over.  It was a fenced area protecting the beech tree from the invasive wild boar.  I was really, really hoping I didn’t encounter a crazy wild pig!  However, this post would have been more interesting if I had!

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When the end of the hike was approaching I saw Dave hiking out towards me.  He’s a worrier.  It took me about 45 minutes because of all the stopping to photograph and look around.  It was nice to complete a small, very manageable, portion of the trail.  I would love to do more, but that will have to wait.

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See Dave, I didn’t get lost!

 

 

Mud, Bones and What am I doing????

I personally love the feeling of walking in mud.  It’s squishy and soft and makes the grossest sound as you pull your foot out of a deep mud puddle.  I love it!  After a heavy downpour the trails are made of slippery, chocolate brown mud!  Mud doesn’t stop me!

While hiking, one periodically comes across unusual things.  Recently, after an uneventful 2 miles or so I noticed the decomposing leg of a deer had been draped on a tree branch.  GROSS!  Of course I took a picture because I’m morbid.  I won’t put it here, but if you want to see it (you sick, sick person) I won’t judge you, just send me a message!

It was a bonus unusual day.  Off the trail about 50 feet was a little white cross. Someone must have buried their pet in the woods.  Or was it the remains of the deer and someone put a cross over it. I decided to admire the cross from trail just in case whatever was there wasn’t completely buried!

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Shelly and I didn’t waste anytime getting away from the decomposing bones!

Hiking with different people I don’t know, I generally ask them, “How do you spend your time outside of hiking?”  Almost always, the answer I get is, “Work.”  Well, besides that!?  Next the answers are about their children or grandchildren, pets, education and travel.

When I am asked that question the first thing I want to tell people is about my family.  Dave (my husband) and Carl (my son) are my most favorite people!  My two golden retrievers are great hiking buddies, too!

Another hobby I enjoy is hand crafting homemade greeting cards.  I have a room in my house dedicated to my stamps and crafts!  I also love Halloween, cooking and reading everything I can about the AT.

Truth be told, I really just want to talk about hiking the Appalachian Trail.  I want to talk about my gear, maps, books, planning – YOU NAME IT!  My hike may be 3.7 years from now (or maybe sooner if I can manage it) but I eat, sleep, and breathe the AT.

I’m planning a trip to Gatlinburg, TN in late April and plan to visit many trails there.  I had made a promise to myself to not hike any of the AT until I started my thru hike.  I wanted everything to be new on the trail.  Now I have a chance to go to Clingman’s Dome!  I should do it, right?  Or, should I not?  I should.  Maybe not.  Ugh!

In reality I should be focusing on planning and preparing for a backpacking trip I am taking to the Allegheny National Forest in ONE WEEK!  Shelly and I are spending one night on a trail out there.  I’m very nervous about putting up my tent.  I will be practicing it over and over in my yard this week!  I’ll be documenting my success or lack thereof!

As you can tell, it is Spring and I’m excited for backpacking season to begin.  I’m looking forward to wearing my heavier pack on some trails to get more accustomed to it.

Happy Trails and thanks for following my adventures in training for my thru hike of the AT!