The Great Smoky Mountains
July 31 Friday
Arrived in DC to head off tomorrow with Ken to the Great Smoky Mountains.
August 1 Saturday
Head out to the Smokies. Leave around 930AM and got to Smokemont car camp around 700AM. We made a stop though at REI to pick up a stake for food over a fire, Ken a poncho for rain. And another stop at Walmart for food - sausages, salads and beer. At Smokemont we grabbed firewood and setup camp. Cooked our food, ate, drank and hung around the fire. Ken asked “how many days do you think people stare at a fire on average?”. The bathroom are also out of order - a pipe burst. Finally to bed after the last beer but not before brushing our teeth.
August 2 Sunday
Woke up around 7AM. Ate breakfast. Found out the bathrooms are working again and did out business. We tested the water filter in the creek near by the car camp. Then we finished packing our day packs. We were off to hike up to LeConte - 5.5 to 6 miles one way up a mountain 6500ft. elevation. Lots of fun checking out the bluff, the ridge hiking along rocks and hanging at the cliff. My knee started to give me problems, hopefully I can solve this for tomorrow. The car has been running low on gas so we decided to run into town to fill up and grab some more food for the fire - franks, beans and dessert (honey bear for Ken, apple turnover for me). Came back and got to business.
August 3 Monday
Today was our first hike of a multi-day trip - leaving Smokemont car camp behind and headed down the path - Bradley Fork Trail. Leading us to campsite #49. I began having issues with my knee since LeConte and dealt with them today. A short hike. We made camp and got ourselves together. Ken is a bit difficult when it comes to choosing spots or relaxing up on some rules. But overall having a good time. We dried our clothes on rocks. Made a fire. I washed my face and feet in the creek We met some people at the cables for the bear sacks. Michael and Code. They were there with a group of teens. One of the yearly outings for at-risk teens. Michael asked where we were from. He said he was once in New York to help out with Sandy (hurricane 2012). I said “thanks”. The both were from Illinois - Bloomfield? near St. Louis. They invited us over for a fire - but we ended up not going because we both were tired and Ken is feeling sick. We called it a night with the fire.
August 4 Tuesday
Both woke up a little later than expected. Cleared up camp and got rolling like 930-10 to over next spot - Kephart. The trail leading out of #49 to Kephart though is like an instant climb, the elevation rises quickly. We go roughly from 3400 to 5300 in under 3 miles. It was a tough day for both of us. Ken progressly got worse and my knee held up until the last 2 miles. Very tiring. Finally making it to Kephart shelter which is an open shelter with bunks we collapsed and began unpacking. We met a nice couple that came up to the shelter to rest with their 2 year old child. He gave me an ace badge (thank GOD). Ken and I debated our next moves for tomorrow depending on how we felt. Either Newfound Gap Road (2 miles) or Newfound Gap (4.5 miles). We will probably be looking for a ride back to Smokemont, ending our trip early because of Ken’s illness and my knee trouble. It isn’t great but health and safety comes first. Until tomorrow.
“Mountains look like paper cut outs layered”
August 5 Wednesday
Had a good night sleep at Kephart. Both Ken and I kept waking to pee though. We got ourselves together to make our way to Newfound Gap - (Rockefeller Memorial). A slow start for this hike - doing the usual, water, food, clothes, etc. I bandaged up both knees. We begin our ascent along the Sweet Heifer Creek Trial. A 3.7 miles route that meets up with the Appalachian Trail. It moves from 3400 to just under 6000. Very difficult today. Exhausted, knees hurt, feel dehydrated. Let Ken keep the pace. Struggled all the way today. Knees started to give up along the way on the Appalachian Trail to Newfound Gap. Once we arrived we rested on the monument. Based on time, weather and especially my knee. We asked the guys fixing the pavement if they knew who to call to get us off the trail and back to Smokemont. The guys said they were part of the historic preservation team and they could call the rangers. They called- and two volunteer rangers picked us up. It was great to talk with them - two retired folks - married. Man was a cop and the woman worked in the schools. We talked about the Smokies, black bears and things to see. They mentioned Parsons Branch as a scenic drive and Route 129 also known as Dragon’s Tail where motorcyclists speed around the curves and sometimes to their death. They woman said “mostly crotchrockets not the hogs because they aren’t willing to throw their bikes down and get on their knees.” We said “thank you” as they dropped us off at Ken’s car. We drove into Maggie’s Valley - grabbed a hotel room at Best Western. At a meal at a local place called “Country Vittle”. We ate ourselves sick ending in apple pie. Did some laundry and now chilled out planning tomorrow. A drive and then Asheville. —- We did learn somethings-
- like reducing pack weight
- timing our miles
- reduce certain systems
- spend on getting better clothing
- research shoes