After three seasons of AT hiking, my life has gotten into somewhat of a “routine”. Hike some in the Spring, a bit during the Summer and now finish up with a nice Fall AT hike. I was lucky to sign up my longtime hiking buddy Tom B. as well as his daughter Kate (aka Bright Side) for a two-week hike starting Sept 18 at the northern border of Great Smoky Mountain National Park. We had two weeks to start hiking southbound and our goal was to cross the Georgia border.
It’s a long 12 hour drive from Cooperstown to Davenport Gap NC. We reached Standing Bear Farm hostel around 7 PM and early the next morning started our hike up our first Smoky Mountain peak. We were met but an ominous sign at the trailhead but fortunately our trek through the park was a few days after the hurricane and we actually had great weather for almost the entire two weeks:
We always had lots of energy early in the morning:
After three days and nights we were finally getting our trail legs. We kept looking for bear but this was the closest we every came to one:
At this point, also needed to go into town for a resupply. Gatlinburg TN certainly offered us this. Bellies full, we hiked the next day to the peak of Clingman’s Dome. This is the highest peak on the entire AT. It’s also a popular tourist destination accessible by car. On a clear day you can walk to the top of the lookout for great views.
Hiked another three days and night to reach the southernmost entrance to the Smokies at Fontana Dam. Nice rhythm of hiking up and down a few peaks each day. Always making sure to eat some of the necessary food groups each day! One of the great aspects of hiking is that you can eat anything and as much as you want and still be guaranteed to lose weight. ( just don’t try this at home )
One of the ways you know you are “on trail” is by passing these remarkable “indian trail markers”. Trees that were bent while thy were sapling to grow into distinctive shapes to tell us hikers and forest wanderers that they are on an established trail.
We hiked another week through the National Forests south of the Smokies through North Carolina. Kate went home briefly to pick up our new hiking companion Bruce who rounded up our new foursome nicely and led our pack through the woods.
Kept hiking south… soon our guidebook said “pass by the iconic twisted oak tree at Bly Gap and just south of here is the NC:Georgia border. Sure enough…
We made it ! Hiked another few miles to Dick’s Creek Gap with Kate and Bruce waiting for us at the truck. Fourteen hour drive and now back home in Cooperstown. We were all proud of our successful 174 mile adventure.
Getting close to becoming an official “AT 2000 miler”. That means completing the entire 2180 miles of the AT. Still need to complete 69 miles in Georgia, 240 miles in Tennessee and about 60 miles up in southern Maine. These are my 2019 hiking goals. Plan for a few weeks in May, a hike in Maine in August and final completion in the fall. Looking for partners… come join me on the AT in 2019.
Best wishes for all to have a nice winter where ever you may be. Happy Trails.