Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Hike In The Smokies

One of our recent guests was kind enough to share his hiking story with us as well as some of his incredible photos of the Smoky Mountains...

A Hike In The Smokies By Predrag Gojkovic'

Here is what we read on the front page of spring issue of Smokies Guide we picked up at the park information centre:

"A spring hike in the Smokies is usually benign experience accented by wildflowers and singing warblers. However, there can be exceptions. In mid March of 1993. a storm dropped two feet of snow on the park's lower elevations. Above 5,000 feet there were chest high drifts and stranded backpackers suffered severe frost bite and eventually the amputation of extremities."

Is there a better way to start a vacation in the Smokies then to be reminded that you can be mauled by the bear or loose your extremities to frost bites?

We decided not to hike during the storm and to resist the urge to feed bears if we see one in the mountain. That should take care of that, now let's get down to business of planing our hikes.

First, we purchased a map with all hiking trails in the Smokies for only a buck. Then we asked Information centre employees for advice and they delivered. They told us exactly which trails were suitable for our 6 year old and which ones were more demanding. They gave us a nice hiking plan for our entire vacation and it worked really well. Next, we checked weather forecast for the rest of the week, courtesy of the new hi-speed connection at Glimpse Of Heaven cabin. It is really nice to be able to turn on your laptop and get detailed weather forecast for the exact area you're going to.

First we did Laurel Falls, the most popular trail in the Smokies, just to break into the habit of walking and climbing. Falls are gorgeous and hike was fairly easy. Trail is paved and the climb was not too demanding. We met lot's of people with small kids and some older couples.
Following day we hiked Little River trail. It was interesting to see buildings of an old Hunting Club still standing there. They provided us with a nice photo shoot backdrop. Although "Do Not Trespass" signs were clearly visible, we were told at Information centre that it's O.K. to look around as long as you do not enter the buildings.

Next, we drove to Cades Cove and hiked Abrams Falls trail. It was more demanding and rain didn't make it any easier. But still, it was nothing more than a nice walk and our younger boy (the 6 year old) enjoyed it very much and never complained. We were told to avoid hiking that trail on weekends because of the excessive crowds. So we went in the middle of the week. Still there were at least 20 people by the falls the whole time we were there. They were constantly arriving an leaving. We had a hard time getting a descent shot of the falls and we waited for 30 minutes to catch a moment with nobody else in the frame except us and the falls.

We chose a sunny and clear day for our trip to Clingmans Dome, the highest peak in the Smokies. It's only a short hike from the parking lot at the end of the road to the observation tower, but it's pretty steep. We worked out quite a sweat to get there, but the splendid views were more than enough of a reward. Obviously, don't go there on a fogy day.

Then, it was time for a really good stuff. Wife stayed at Glimpse with our younger kid, and me and our 12 year old went to Newfound Gap where we started our 8 mile roundtrip day hike on Appalachian Trail. Our destination was Charlies Bunion, a rock with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. We met and briefly talked with an AT thru-hiker and had lunch at Icewater Spring shelter (one of 250 on a 3500 kilometers long trail, where thru-hikers usually spend their nights). It was nice to be a part of this exciting adventure, even if it was for one day only (thru-hikers usually need 5-6 months to complete the task).

Next day was stormy and we stayed at the cabin and enjoyed all the comfort it offered to rejuvenate our strength. We needed that because on the last day of our vacation we were going to climb Mt LeConte. It was a foggy and rainy day, but at least there were no storms and kid and I put our backpacks on, checked the batteries in our cameras and left early in the morning. Alum Cave trail is a 5.5 mile long, very strenuous climb to Mt LeConte lodge where day hikers can use their office to warm up and dry out before the trip back. Or, if you make reservations well in advance it is possible to stay there overnight and eat in their restaurant. Even on a fogy day like that the beauty of the nature was completely overwhelming. Rocks, caves, mountain streams, trees,... it was just glorious.

That hike was not suitable for our little one as well, so him and my wife stayed at the Glimpse again. I really appreciate her understanding and support for my love of hiking, but I think she also really love being at that cabin. I mean, what's not to love? GH is simply gorgeous!

So that's it from me, I hope readers of your blog will find this helpful, and again, thanks Cheryl for giving us opportunity to enjoy your wonderful cabin again.
Windsor, Ontario
Thank you Predrag and family - we look forward to having you back again soon..