The Smokies , Part 1
Ok, so after two days chilling at the Fontana “Hilton,” a gang of folks were ready to start the Smokies.
Ram into Tu-tu and her family at the “Hilton.” Since Tu-tu gave me my trail name, I got a pic of us together.
We hoped, by waiting, that the weather would clear for Clingman’s Dome on the third or fourth day, but it wasn’t to be. The Smokies – at least the first 49 miles – lived up to their name – giving us fog and drizzle at altitude during the day and condensing into rain at night. I had my rain coat draped over my shoulders most days, but didn’t have to zip it while actually hiking for more than am hour. We had some views as well, briefly.
First day was a twelve mile uphill hike! It was long. I almost literally ran into the back of hiker Scott at one point. He said “hike with me.” Uh – ok. Then he said “That bear down the hill hissed at a bear that was up on the trail. Not sure where the bear on the trail went.” OK then – I’m RIGHT on his tail. Saw the bear by the tree. Looked like it was likely a momma guarding her cubs. No – no pics of that.
The wildflowers were at times carpeting the forest floor, and at other times they were scarce. By far, the most common flower is a small white one with faint red stripes in the petals.
I’ve never seen it in New England, so I’m not sure what it is.
Hemlocks are dying in many places, but up at the highest elevations seemed to be doing a bit better. The Hemlock forest at the higher elevations of Clingman’s Dome was the first fir forest since I started the trail in Georgia. Some of the dead trees looked like ghosts.
Oh – the second day took us over Rocky Top – the mountain of I believe the University of NC’s fight song or some such thing. There was some discussion about whether it was the bear of a climb for the day or the lovely 100 year old orchard we hiked through. The orchard was my favorite part of that day’s hike – blooming fruit trees and a lilac just coming to life. The mountain that came afterward was steep and a very slow climb, but we did have good views from it.
And when we got to Newfound Gap, I was grateful for a ride to town for a much needed shower! Gatlinburg is kind of ticky-tacky, but lots of eating choices. I had mud slide for dinner this evening to commemorate the hike down from Clingmam’s Dome yesterday – a seven mile mudslide.
Oh yes – Fontana Dam: I read where they had to drill down and reinforce the Dam because the foot was moving downstream and the head upstream. I think it’s true.
In no particular order – other pics from the Smokies:
The metal grate is the hiker gate through a feral pig containment fence!