I planned an impromptu hiking trip to the Smokies for the first week of November. There were seven who wanted to go, so we were able to squeeze into one van. It’s always more fun when everyone is in one vehicle. The group consisted of myself, ‘Navo’, two of my children, Jackson ‘Eagle-Eye’ & Delaney ‘Chipper’, Ian ‘Tracker’, John ‘Postal’, Christian ‘Half-Mac’, Chris ‘Smokin’ Ace’ and newbie Nicole. We were on the lookout for a trail name for Nicole and new ones for Ian and Jackson (because they didn’t like theirs).
It was a cold weekend, which I was happy about. We couldn’t all get reservations at the same place, so the plan was to park at Newfound Gap, hike up the AT, half the group go on to Mount LeConte, and my son and I would continue on the AT to a shelter further up the trail. Then we would meet up the next day.
We all had a cold night in our respective shelters. There were both day-hikers and thru-hikers. The next day we hoofed it back to Charlie’s Bunion where we met the rest of our group. It was like someone kicked over an ant hill. People were everywhere. The hikers in our group all said the hike from Mount LeConte was worse than the hike to Mount LeConte.
Everyone was amazed by the incredible views we continually had. One reason I love hiking is because I get to go places that I can’t go in a vehicle. I get satisfaction from knowing that my legs carried me to this amazing piece of God’s creation that I wouldn’t be able to see any other way.
We strayed off the AT and descended into a gap where the Horace Kephart Shelter rested. Side trails are sometimes not well-maintained like the AT is, and this one was no exception. We tried to figure out if this was a trail or a drainage ditch or both. When we finally arrived at the bottom we were greeted by one of the nicest shelters we had ever stayed at, situated right next to a raging creek.
Another note about side trails: There are usually no elevation profiles to be found. The next day we made our way up the Sweat Heifer Trail (I felt like a sweaty heifer) back to the AT which was about a four mile up. We were all beat up by the time we reached the AT. Can you say, 1/2 a mile per hour?
We covered the 1.7 miles back down to the parking lot in record time. Nicole was bestowed the trail name ‘Tweety’ because of her random melodic whistling. On the way home, we drove through a lot of smoke. We found out later that large swaths of forests of North Carolina and Tennessee were on fire, eventually destroying hundreds of thousands of acres of woods and many homes.