Saturday, May 19, 2012
The Great Smokie Mountains
After the visit to lake Lure and Chimney Rock as a kid, my next sight of the mountains was crossing from Cherokee thru Newfound Gap to Gatlinburg, TN. Dad said ‘This is the Smokies’. I as about 6-7 years old. We were in the clouds, and I thought that was neat. I went wandering off up a path, you could hardly see your hand in front of your face, but suddenly there was something in my way, big and black. A Black Bear. Mama said I probably scared him as much as he scared me, but I doubt it. At that time the AT was being developed more, and that path was actually part of the Appalachian Trail.
In 2002 Sherry and I decided to attempt to hike the 70+ miles thru the Smokies. Starting at Fontana Dam, NC and for 10 days we were in the largest roadless area in the Eastern USA, ending at Cove Creek Gap.
The Smokies are a challenge to the AT Hiker. If you have a dog, it must be kenneled and shuttled around the Smokies, no dogs (except seeing-eye dogs) allowed on the trail. That is funny because for the first 30 miles, horses can share the trail (we were forced off the trail by a skittish horse and a young lady rider). You are allowed to tent camp, but only if the shelters are full. At the time the shelters were fronted by chain link fencing to keep the bears out.
(This is similar to the shelters in the Smokies, except there the front was enclosed with chain link fencing)
In the Smokies there are two places you run into civilization, Clingman’s Dome and Newfound Gap. Both places backpackers are looked at as curious foreign objects, some of us smelled bad.
The trail pretty much follows the NC/TN state lines. The Smokies are about equally divided by the two states. Most of the time you do not know which state you are actually in.
The funniest thing that happened was at Newfound Gap. As you hike the food is bland and simple. You think of a Pepsi and crackers (etc). Not remembering what was at Newfound we were picturing some vending machines, after all it is the most visited spot on the East Coast, but we found none. I saw a man with a Monaco RV hat on, and asked if he knew where the vending machines were.
“There are none, but we have some cold drinks in the car you can have.” Said the stranger.
“No that’s okay, we will skip it.” I said reluctantly.
“NO WE WANT!” came the noise from my side, “We will take them and be glad to pay for them!”
They gave us a couple COLD drinks and we thanked them. They would take no pay for them. The drinks were delicious!!!
Thanks for coming this way.
Coca-Cola was originally green.
1948 Chevrolet, that is about the year I was on the AT and the year of the first Thru Hiker:1948 Earl Shaffer, trail name Crazy One. He hiked from Georgia to Maine in one summer (referred to as a Thru-hike). We started as Thru hikers, but became ‘section hikers’.