Another National Park in the books: The Great Smoky Mountains!
Ray Ray and I just returned from a wedding road trip in North Carolina. The proximity to the national park straddling the North Carolina/Tennessee border was too great a temptation to pass up. Unlike visits to National Parks in the past where we would drive in with a well-stocked car and stay in local cabins, this was our first multi-day backpacking trip. We spent three days and two nights hiking a trail that formed a nine mile loop with a three thousand foot elevation drop – which means a three thousand foot gain, the majority of which came on the final day and had us so winded and beat, we barely spoke for the last few hours for a severe lack of breath!
It was as incredible a sight as anyone has ever said it is. The moment you see an expanse of green mountains rolling and folding together for miles, nearly untouched, gives you a small glimpse at what life on the frontier actually looked like long before anyone ever came along. And as you read about the park, you realize those who did settle there before the park started still have a complicated history with it.
Our three days on the trail provided plenty of stories, and just about all of them have some slightly frightening moments. We crossed strong streams and rivers with full packs, one time with me nearly tumbling off a rock, we heard a rather large animal (presumably a black bear) growling and rustling around in some bushes just as the skies opened up and a deluge of rain beat us up for thirty minutes, and at one point on a not-so-well-worn part of a trail, Ray Ray mis-stepped and began to slide down an embankment before arresting her slide and pulling herself back out.
One of the most entertaining moments came when we reached our first camp site at the end of the first day and discovered a fireplace and chimney sitting in a large clearing. Upon further investigation we saw large rocks, assembled in a rectangle on the ground in front of it. It was the site of a depression-era cabin used by the Civilian Conservation Corps FDR started. It’s one of the more prominent pictures in that collection and was one of the most memorable moments of the trip.
Go check out the pictures, then go find a park to explore!