No, I didn’t see a bear in the Smokies.
Can you freaking believe it? No bears! Not a single one. I thought I was supposed to be getting consumed by these animals out here. That’s what everyone told me before I left, at least! Seriously disappointed. I dunno what I’m going to do – go on living? Keep hiking? So bland.
On that note, actually, I’ve seen an excruciatingly low amount of wildlife. The sad reality is that this is probably due to the massive amount of wildfires. The sheer destruction has been shocking to see. It looks like a horrifyingly real scene from a Tim Burton film.
On that note, I did experience a blubbering owl outburst one night. What do I mean by that? Oh simply that I was, in a shocking turn of events, actually getting a good night’s sleep in a shelter when all of a sudden an sheer EXPLOSION OF SOUND came from outside. It straight sounded like someone took a shovel and started beating the crap out of an animal. Or like a cat had a serious issue with his significant other. Or like an owl just exploded. So strange. I think everyone was ok, there was no carnage. It was just god damn shocking.
VIEWS. THE VIEWS. OH MY GOD.
Let’s start with the most positive aspect of the Smoky Mountains: The VIEWS. Holy goodness, they are beautiful (if it’s not foggy as all hell). You want to see some epic skylines, you need to get out there.
- The Firetowers are so freakin’ epic. I don’t care if you’re afraid of heights. Climb up it, it’s absolutely worth it. Ok, maybe if you’re terrified you should stay on the ground. This one had no railing on one of the flights, and when you got to the top the walls were rusted, bustling pieces of rickety metal, and the floor was soggy pieces of plywood. BUT IT WAS STILL SO COOL!
- Clingman’s Dome – the highest point of the entire A.T! (It’s all down hill from here…sort of) This is another one I sprinted for. Yeah, we were hiking all day but once I dropped pack I ZOOMED off through the day hikers. That’s the thing about this place: there are a crap ton of Day Hikers. This is a place that will truly make you feel like hiker trash. You will be surrounded by comparatively sparkling people who smell nice and have nice cameras and straight backs. They also might have fresh snacks. Things you will probably feel include, but are not limited to:
- like you need to get the hell out of this crowd
- like you never want to enter real life again. Ever.
- Camerer Mountain is a MUST see. As Walkamole said, “Everyone was telling me to go up there. I mean, people were literally coming up to me on the trail saying Make sure ya go to Camerer Mountain and then disappearing in the woods…. well maybe just that one guy….” Buzz said so, too. It…god. The walk up is .6 miles, but DO NOT LET THAT DISCOURAGE YOU. YOU NEED TO GO. The vegetation around the winding path starts making you feel like you’re at the beach. It winds up and down, and you start to wonder if it’s going to be worth it. You might even want to turn back. Keep going. Why? Because amidst the encompassing rocks lays a beautiful enclosed gazebo that overlooks 360 degrees of epic skyline.
- The edge of the campground at night beholds an epic – I mean EPIC – view of the cities below. It’s kind of shocking, honestly. You’re encased in dense, damp forest as the night falls. You’re tired. You probably want to go to bed. Just, all I can say is wait a little longer. Wait for the sun to set. Walk to the edge of the campground. The city is spread out over the distance and you feel like you’re looking at a lower version of the starry night sky. Or like you’re in an airplane. Except your feet are rooted in the ground and you’re considerably less worried about dying in a plane crash, because you’re not in a plane.
The Tumultuous Weather Patterns
Oye, lardy, what a trip the weather was! Be ready for everything. That’s all I can say. There will be nice days. You are also guaranteed to experience some bullshit. Yes, Day One was awesome. So was Day Three! Look at how nice this is.
So nice, so pleasant, so sunny. We got sunburned on Clingman’s Dome.
Ok. It was terrible. At least in the morning. See what I mean!!!! Ugh, it…we…how do I explain this. I went to bed after looking out at a beautiful evening cityscape. The stars were out, it was perfecto. I woke up in the middle of the night. Why? Because there was rain hitting my tent. Except it wasn’t really rain, it wasn’t consistent enough. That’s because we were in a cloud. Outside, the world was misty and flowing. The entire morning was foggy and cold and gross. I don’t know if you’ve ever broken down a tent in these conditions, but let me tell you firsthand it is horrible. Your hands freeze. Everything is wet. You can’t move fast. Everything is still wet. You put the wet things into your pack. You eat breakfast on a damp bench. Your friends are still cracking jokes and having fun, though, so you smile as you hunch within your rain jacket. You’re still happy to be out here, and you wait patiently and excitedly for the feeling to re-enter your fingers.
Five hours later and SUNSHINE.
Whatever, Smokies. I don’t understand you.
Things Will Resume Being Amazing The Second You Leave
Our last day in the Smokies was (pardon my French) really fucking difficult. My knees were seriously not having it, which is a story for another blog post. Point is that I was limping for 5 miles, accompanied by a very patient Pineapple. We trudged slowly through harsh winds, rain, and thunder. We were absolutely absolutely soaked to the core. If rain hadn’t actually gotten inside our jackets, we were sweating enough for it to seem like it had. Our socks were wet. I couldn’t walk properly. We hadn’t eaten much and couldn’t stop for lunch. Our spirits were low.
Then we saw the northern park boundary.
“For the rest of my life, I am never going to forget this. We were in the middle of a bullshit day in the Smokies. Now? We literally JUST crossed the boarder and look! The SUN is shining, the BIRDS are chirping. Hell, things are even BLOOMING.” Right after Pineapple finished saying this, we encountered two Day Hikers who asked us where the boarder to the Smokies was. We said it wasn’t far. They responded that they’d probably just come back with us since they were doing trail magic.
Pineapple and I laughed out loud.
“Are you SERIOUS?! There’s even TRAIL MAGIC out here!” Guys, he was right. The Smoky Mountains contain the most exquisite display of turmoil and beauty that I’ve seen thus far on this hike.
For now? PEACE OUT SMOKY MOUNTAINS, THIS SQUAD IS ON IT’S WAY TO VIRGINIA.