Last week I got the wonderful opportunity to go hiking in the MAGNIFICENT Great Smoky Mountains. And I'm sure it would have been a great trip if it weren't for some crappy planning on my part. I went with the boy scout Venture troop that I am a part of (yes, I am a boy scout, venture is a co-ed faction) and we hiked from Fontana Dam to Clingman's Dome, spending only about 2 miles on the Appalachian Trail and the rest of the 40ish miles on back country trails.
The picture above was one of the first, and only views of the mountain range that we actually saw unfortunately. Most of the views were something like this:
And I am definitely not saying that the forests are not beautiful, but when you see tree after tree, sometimes you wish for a little bit of a break to see some views. We did have the fortune that every campsite we stayed at had a gorgeous rushing stream, in fact while we were on the trail only once or twice did we actually get out of earshot of a rushing stream. When we went into Gatlinburg after the trip, it felt almost empty to not have the sound of water in the background. But I'll talk more about Gatlinburg later.
Along the trails there was some beautiful flora:
and of course some great fauna:
but not all the animals were so nice. The insects were the most notable annoyances during the trip. From all of the bites that I got from multiple different insects, including a black fly (ouch), my arms seriously look diseased with all of the little red bites that are almost impossible not to scratch. And I am pretty convinced that they are not mosquito bites, because I did not see a single mosquito on the entire trip. We also had a slight problem with the butterflies. Yes, butterflies are very pretty, but I learned the hard way that they are also VERY clingy. This one would not get away from me and eventually decided to stick to my nose:
Unfortunately, my heath wasn't really up to par for a trip of this caliber either. I had serious problems with my asthma and actually got very sick for the last day or so of hiking and for the next few days as well. After we got back into town, I called my mother for some sage advice on what was possibly wrong with me, because I had truly never felt so awful in my life, and as it happens I probably made myself sick by majorly changing my diet the week before leaving for the mountains, and then going onto a diet of entirely dehydrated food, not very good for my insides. This was also the moment that I learned that Pepto Bismol is the wonder cure for so many things.
But anyways, aside from all of these shortcomings and the TERRIBLE weather that we experienced (it rained so hard for 2 of the days, I would equate the intensity of the rain to the water pressure in a hotel shower), the trip was actually quite fun. The trails were hard, yet somehow relaxing and invigorating at the same time. I know it sounds like a total contradiction, but I felt totally at peace with myself as I was struggling up and down major elevation changes with severely bruised toes (I really wish I was kidding about the latter part). And when it wasn't raining, the sun shined down on us and felt so refreshing, and also provided ample opportunity for breathtaking views through the trees.
After we got off the trail, we were up at Clingman's Dome, which is a place heavily populated by tourists, most of which gave us dirty looks, and I really just wanted to tell them "Sorry that we are dirty and we smell, but we just got done with hiking for a whole week in the woods, so just give us a break!!"
After our adventures in hiking, we went into Gatlinburg, because at the Nantahala Outdoor Center we had heard that there were showers for hikers, and I have to say after spending a week surrounded by trees going into such a tourist trap of a town is the biggest culture shock that I have ever experienced. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love tourist traps, they are so much fun, but it was just so weird to see so many shops and people and everything.
We actually found out that the Nantahala Outdoor Center showers were only supposed to be for thru hikers of the Appalachian Trail, but the people who worked there were nice enough to let us use the shower facilities. Maybe it was just that we smelled way to bad, and they thought if we stayed the way we were we would scare off everyone else with our stench. But anyways, I think I can proudly say that it had never felt so good to actually be clean!!!
I would definitely have to say that it was a trip to remember!