Today is the day. We are hiking the last 5 miles of the Appalachian Trail through the Great Smoky Mountains. But to do so, we have to hike a total of 21 miles. There is not an easy entry point to the piece of the AT we have left to hike. So, the last day of our GSM-AT journey is going to be a long one. My brother is in town, which means the four of us will be hiking together. And a friend of my mom's is joining us.
5:30 AM - Catch our ride to Clingman's Dome, the top of the mountain.
7:00 AM - We are met at the top of the mountain by a gorgeous sunrise and clear skies.
Clingman's Dome is all too familiar at this point. We have started multiple hikes from this point, but today's hike will be the last for a while. The weather is great, and we're feeling good.
The day passes by quicker than most of the other hikes. Maybe it is because of the continuous conversation, or the panorama views that pop up around every turn. But before I know it, we are at Derrick Knob.
From here we are starting the 5 miles of the AT we have yet to hike - Derrick Knob to Thunderhead. The downhill descent from Clingman's Dome has ceased, and we work our way up multiple climbs. Some of the uphill stretches seem never ending.
The last uphill stretch to Thunderhead was definitely a long one (30-45 mins), but once we reached the top the moment set in. The finish line view made us feel on top of the world. We had completed the whole AT through the Smoky Mountains. From here the rest should be a familiar down hill that we did earlier in the year.
We made our way from Thunderhead to Rocky Top. After Rocky Top, we ran into a group of Buddhists having a spiritual moment on the trail. It was an interesting situation because they were blocking the trail and asked us if we wanted to join their group. However, we politely declined and made our way around them. Finishing today's hike was all that was on our minds.
The stretch from Bote Mountain Trail down to Cades Cove was seemingly never ending, almost more so than the uphill trek to Thunderhead. But as we picnic at the car at the end of the trail, the pain in our feet is taking a back seat to the idea that we are done with the AT.
The experience of hiking with my parents is not a new one, but at this point in my life, it is more appreciated. What we have accomplished together is a moment in our lives that we will always look back on and talk fondly of. Until the next hike...
Over and out,