The grandeur of the mountains never ceases to amaze me. Although the morning started out dreary and I thought I was embarking on yet another long hiking trip, by mid day, I was standing above the clouds on top of a mountain enjoying the clear skies at 5527 feet.
My parents and I woke up early to pack our gear and eat breakfast before driving to the mountains. Luckily, we only live 45 minutes out from the Great Smoky Mountains. We started our trek at 9am, hiking from Cades Cove to the Spence Field Shelter. The trail was, of course, uphill the whole way. Although uphill used to be the most dreaded part of the journey for me, I have actually grown to prefer the uphill climb over the downhill descent. We reached Spence Field by noon and stopped to eat a lite lunch before we continued on to Thunderhead.
As we began our climb to Rocky Top, the mountain peak before Thunderhead, we were quickly engulfed in scenic views that stretched for miles across the Tennessee Valley and into North Carolina and South Carolina. By the time we reached Rocky Top, we had a line of sight over the tree tops, and the panorama was breathtaking. The views were so spectacular and vivid that the walk from Rocky Top to Thunderhead whizzed by as we looked around in awe.
We made it to Thunderhead, and my parents were able to cross the goal off of their bucket list. There are few days in the year, according to my dad, when you can see as far as we could from the mountain top (so I hope you enjoy the pictures). We shared the views with through hikers and day hikers, and we actually ran into my old swim coach and an Appalachian Trail hiker from Germany. My parents, being the talkative people that they are, stopped and engaged in conversation. As we caught up with an old friend and made a new one, I couldn't help but think the cliche, "what a small world."
Here I was on a mountain top talking to a swim coach I hadn't seen in three or more years. Then I exercised my German skills with an AT hiker who actually lived in a German town near my relatives in Bielefeld. As big as the Smoky Mountains are, what are the chances we would run into those two people?
I recalled my childhood endeavors as a competitive swimmer and my familial heritage in Germany, two things that mean a great deal to me. My mindset was returning to its roots and values. Added with the stunning beauty of the landscape around me, I began to feel grounded and strong, standing on top of the mountain. My uncle describes hiking in the mountains as a spiritual journey, and I have to agree. Each time I climb to a new height, I discover something new about myself and about life.
Our dissent began at 3:30pm, and we were able to make it back to our car by 6:30pm, just before the sun set. The timing worked out perfectly. One thing that did not work out for the three of us, however, was that the downhill dissent killed our feet. I guess that is the price of being ambitious when one is out of shape.
After our 16 mile excursion and a nice warm shower, I am in my bed ready to sleep.
Over and out,
Ps: "Lo Main" is my new trail name. Lo Mein like the noodle dish, Main like the street I grew up on, and Lo Main like low maintenance.