Posted by: athike2011 | August 6, 2011

Day 25,26–Atlanta/Smoky Mountain National Park

Day 25

Today was another fairly lazy day… not much to speak of, I slept till 10am! I watched a little more Netflix and did some research on where I was going and what the weather was going to do. I ended up leaving Atlanta around 4pm and heading to a Walmart just outside of Cherokee, NC.

Day 26

Today is Friday and I am heading to a National Park. I learned my lesson early in this trip. I was up at 5am today, had a sandwich made for lunch and was ready to go. It was still a drive up in the the Smokies from where I was, but I made it to the trail head by 6:45, and the parking lot was empty! Not only that, but I didn’t see but one car the whole way up. I decided to do a part of the Appalachian trail, which I had obviously already walked, however, when I was in the Smokies there was 3-8 inches of snow on the ground and I was walking through a cloud. The hope was to have a slightly better view today.

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I got my stuff ready and headed out. Within a half mile of the parking lot I ran into one of two ridge runners that patrol the AT section of the Smokies. A ridge runner is a park employee, not a ranger, but just a guy (or girl) whose entire job is to walk the trail staying at specific shelters making sure everyone is OK, doing what they’re supposed to and are where they are supposed to be. It’s a pretty sweet job. It just so happened that this ridge runner was the exact same one I had run into on my thru hike attempt. His name is Doug, and he remembered exactly who I was. We spoke for a few minutes before heading on our ways. I’m not sure what the chances of running into him were, but they were definitely small.

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We were headed towards Charlies Bunion, one of the few side trails I ever took on the AT, and the only reason was the sign for the trail, which read, “closely control children” or something along those lines. It was about 4 miles each way. You have to climb about 700ish feet, and then drop down another 500 before you get to the area, not an “easy” hike, but it’s not difficult. This time around it was WAY easier than I remember, it could have been the lack of a pack, not trying to hike up slopes with an inch of ice to battle with, but it went decently quick.

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The view from Charlies Bunion was pretty nice, but it was still early and the hazy fog hadn’t completely burned off yet. Sierra and I climbed around on the rocks for a while, sat and ate a sandwich and took a very brief nap. We took a handful of pictures, but this is one of those situations where I find myself so frustrated with the inability of my camera. Don’t get me wrong, I love my camera, it’s shock-proof, sand-proof, water-proof, and has withstood a lot on the AT and the rest of my adventures, but I know how to use a real camera quite well, and there are a lot of ways this one just falls short, lighting, and it’s ability to properly adjust to be specific. Anyways, this is the best I could do with what I had.

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On the way back to the parking lot we stopped at the Ice Water Shelter, which I didn’t stay at when we hiked thru, but we stopped for a snack then too. There was a father and son getting ready to leave when we walked up. We ended up hanging out for a while talking about the trail, backpacking gear, the cost and time it takes to do the whole thing, etc. I made me really want to have someone watch Sierra while I tried it again. This is what the shelter looked like the last time we were here, I didn’t think to take a picture of it this time, but the tarp covering the front is gone, they might just be a winter thing.

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I could tell we were close to the trail head, as we started passing swarms of unprepared people walking along the trail. By the time we got back to the parking lot around noon, it was completely fully with children running around everywhere screaming their heads off. Glad we got here early.

Next stop was Clingmans Dome, the highest point on the AT, at a staggering 6,634ft. The last time we were here I couldn’t see ten feet in front of me. I thought about hiking up, but it’s 8 miles each way, and I already earned my view. This is one of the things that frustrates me about National Parks however, no one has to earn these views anymore. The parking lot, which holds 100-200 cars was almost completely full. From the lot it was a half mile and 200-300 ft climb to get to the top, yet I heard nothing but grumbling about how far it was, and they were fine where they were. The people in this world really drive me crazy sometimes. However, today I was agreed with it not being worth it. Though I could see maybe a mile, with out a beautiful sunny day, I didn’t care enough to join the hundred or so people trying to pack themselves into the view point area at the top.

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I spoke with a ranger and asked how many nice days a year they get up here. His response was three. So to all my fellow AT hikers who got one of those great days, stop buying lotto tickets, your luck has been used up.

One the way up we passed the beginning of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which runs from the smokies all the way up to the southern end of Shenandoah National park, where it becomes Skyline Blvd. The parkway was first started in 1935 with a 12.5 mile stretch right around the Virginia-North Carolina border. The whole thing now covers 469 miles during which you will not see a single billboard, and the NPS has gone out of their way to make sure all utilities are well hidden along the road. North of Roanoak, VA the trial runs with the parkway for a while, which is where I gained interest in the road. Mostly I wanted to bike some of it.

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We turned on to the road and headed north. We drove for a while and found a place that looked perfect for riding, it was a beautiful new road with a really nice grade. I wanted to park at the bottom so I would start out with a ride up and leave the fun/easy part for the end. Sadly, not five minutes later did it start pouring rain, so we kept driving. From there the road was way too rough and full of potholes to make it worth safely riding. I knew that once I got further north into Virginia it got much nicer again. Around 7pm I found the closest walmart to the parkway, and drove the ten miles to call it a night. Though I would have loved to just camp out on the parkway, it is technically National Park land and is consistently patrolled by rangers who frown upon such activity.

Tomorrow we hit the road again and head towards Roanoak, VA and McAfee Knob.

* The only reason there are dots all over the map below is because I had to adjust the route a lot to show it following the blue ridge parkway…

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Responses

  1. Chris … thanks for the comments. No rainforest’s in Jersey. Just got back from the lake region in the Adirondacks,NY. Will post soon. Love your hiking blog. A really cool place if you get around to it “Ricketts Glenn,PA”

    http://mikepillowsphoto.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/when-is-a-place-not-just-a-place/


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