Tuesday–April 20, 2021
Location–Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Newfound Gap, then to Lodge of Legends, Renee & Tim Faith, owners, Gatlinburg, Tennessee, AT Mile 207.7
A mostly peaceful night at Siler’s Bald Shelter. Wind kept whipping my tent fly all night and it’s still steady at it (plus cold) just after 1st light this morning. Camp struck, pack shouldered, sticks in wrist-dangle mode, hands in pockets–I’m off.
We’ve a long, steady 1,200-foot climb first thing to reach Clingmans Dome, highest point on the Appalachian Trail at 6,600+ feet elevation. We finally top-out a little before eleven. And what a rewarding experience it is for me, my fourth time up and over Clingsmans, to finally have the oft talked about great views from the tower. My three previous passes, on gaining the summit, offered no more than a gray shroud, the tower totally cloaked in steady rain and clouds. But today, my payoff; just look at these breathtaking shots! Mount LeConte is right there, as if one might simply reach out and touch it.
The remaining climbs today are long and difficult, the descents treacherous and scary. One misstep, BAM, homeward bound! I trip and stumble the roots, rocks, and boulders, but (dear merciful Lord) I somehow manage to remain upright.
At 4:30 we finally tumble and ricochet m our way off the mountain, down, down to Newfound Gap–and the North Carolina/Tennessee state line.
Renee comes for the three weary souls at five to take us down and down some more to Gatlinburg, tourist capital of the south, where she drops us off at Loco Burro Cantina. Here we put the final touches on “hurt for the day” by gorging ourselves on Mexican delicacies.
Late evening, Renee again comes for us, to take us on to her great Lodge of Legends, the upper outskirts of Gatlinburg.
You wouldn’t think that whooped and content could possibly go together, but it’s a truly satisfying combination. What an amazing day–amazing!
You only live once,
but if you do it right,
once is enough.