Hiking the Appalachian Trail

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Last September my side of the family all went to Gatlinburg for my brother's wedding. We spent 3 days in Gatlinburg, and on the last day my brother, new sister-in-law Sarah, Rick and I all decided to do a hike in the Smokey Mountains.

We started our hike up to see Clingmans Dome (travel post here). On the way down we decided to go the alternate route, which was also part of the Appalachian Trail. It's obviously a very small portion of the trail, but it is the highest portion of the Appalachian Trail which runs from Georgia to Main. We thought it was super cool to hike a portion of it, and made us feel like real hikers.

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The first portion of the hike though we got totally lost and were literally scaling down the mountain. We got directions from another hiker to start down the path to the Appalachian Trail and to take the first left to the portion that would take us to the parking lot. We took the first left and started our journey.

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At first things seemed fine, but then the trail started to turn to dirt, and got really narrow. It's the Appalachian Trial though so we figured this was it. I mean I read the book/watched the movie Wild which was about the Pacific Crest Trail, the west coast version. There were some crazy portions to that trail, so we assumed this was how the trail was supposed to be. Of course, it was odd that we had to walk between those two trees which we barely fit though, but what do we know right?!?

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Then the trail turned into this and I was starting to panic. My brother and Sarah were up ahead and were crawling by this point under tree branches. We were joking they should sell hatchets at the gift shop to hike this trail. There were some hikers behind us that thought we knew what we were doing (wrong!!), and they kept looking up the trail on their GPS. They were like, we are getting close to this other trail if we keep going. At one point I started to have a panic attack and told Rick I was done and going back. I physically couldn't continue this hike, and was not crawling under any trees. Plus I was certain we were going to come across a bear, so I started scaling back up the mountain. Rick said he turned around and I was practically running up the mountain.

**Adding a positive note: the smells were amazing on this portion of our hike. It smelled just like a Christmas tree, or a Christmas Tree candle from BBW in our case since we went the faux tree route :)

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We got back up at the top, had some water, took a million breaths (I was completely out of breath at this point) and decided to continue down the first trail before we gave up and went back down the original trail we used to get up to Clingmans Dome.

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After hiking around the bend, we came across a sign!!

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And found the first left that we should have taken in the first place. We then proceeded to take pictures with every sign along the trail to show how excited we were to know we were still on the right track. We were happy to know that our federal tax dollars were going towards something beneficial like signs, as I was complaining on the first trail, "can't they use our tax dollars to make a sign or something!" Well we discovered they do that...on the real trails...ha! #blondemoment

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The actual Appalachian Trail does have some challenging spots, but was definitely much more doable than the first trail, so we weren't complaining too much! Emphasis on the "too" portion of that statement, achange "we" to "me."

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This was probably the most challenging part because these rocks were at an angle and it was kind of like walking on the side of a wall. But we managed to make it across without any issues or injuries.

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It was hard to show in this picture because of all of the fog but the views were amazing, but also a little scary because the drop down the mountain was so very steep and kind of close to the trail. We were hiking along the highest portion of the Smokey Mountains.

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I can't remember exactly, but I feel like this trail maybe took us like 1.5 hours to hike (maybe a little less). At one point we were starting to wonder when the end was in sight, plus we were on the verge of getting hangry. Again, it's hard to see here because of the fog, but in the background there was a little glimpse of the parking lot in the distance, so we got super excited we were almost there.

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When we made it to the end we were so excited to see flat pavement, or at least I was...ha! The road in the background on the right is the main trail up to Clingmans Dome and what we hiked up earlier that day. This is also where you access the Gift Shop.

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And of course we had to get a photo of all of us to celebrate surviving our first hike on the Appalachian Trail, and not getting lost in the highest point of the Smokey Mountains.

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We then headed back to Gatlinburg, and celebrated with some margaritas and Mexican food at No Way Jose's Cantina. It was a great day and a lot of fun. We love our little adventures, and I have more to share over the next few weeks!
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