Hi y’all! We finished the Smokies a few days ago and we are both feeling pretty good right now. Going into the Park, we knew that it would be a tough challenge. Leaving the Park, I feel like we rocked it.
Overall, the Park should be on everyone’s “must visit” list. The vistas are gorgeous and accessible. And, the variety of trees, plants, and wildlife is pretty incredible. The spring wildflowers are in full bloom. There are mini irises, Jacob’s Ladders, wild bleeding hearts, violets, buttercups and more. We hiked through dark pine forests and light airy meadows, just greening deciduous areas and the ever-present rhododendron tunnel. We saw some huge wild deer and everyday we scattered hundreds of baby grasshoppers as we walked the trail. No bears though!
The only downside to the AT in GSMNP is that the trails are pretty chewed up from overuse and the occasional horse.
The most surprising (pleasant) part of the Park for me was the mandatory shelter overnights. Since Joel and I haven’t spent any time in shelters, we haven’t had a chance to socialize with many people at the end if the day. In the Smokies, we got loads of socialization which was pretty cool. We met lots of other hikers (section hikers, weekend hikers, and of course thrus). Everyone has a story to tell and it was a great way to pass a few cold evening hours. The other cool thing about the shelters is that they all have stone fireplaces. Most nights an enterprising older gentleman ( of which there were always a few) started a fire to get the shelters a bit warmer.
We had great sunny weather and blew through the Park in 4 days. I think this area of the world would be high on my list to re-visit at some point. Dayna–someday we should plan a rafting trip down here. I think you would love it.
I still haven’t taken a lot of pictures mostly because I keep my phone in my pack. However, today in Hot Springs, I remedied that situation by buying an “almost” fanny-pack. It is as close to a fanny-pack as I will ever let my diva-princess self get.
As for our mental state, I think it is safe to say we are both feeling strong and ready to hit Virginia.
Thank you to everyone who had been praying for us and rooting for us. It keeps us going during those tough moments. And, keep the blog comments coming. They give us something to chat about during the many trail hours we log.