Backpacking the Smoky Mountains
From Raleigh we drove 350 miles into the heart of the Smoky Mountains for two nights of backcountry camping. The plan was to hike six miles from the Elkmont Rangers Station to site #31, but after a conversation with the ranger, in which we were warned of aggressive bear activity near that campsite, we opted instead for the more ambulance-accessible site #24 and enjoyed a safe and lovely evening in the forest.
Thursday we braved several challenging river crossings and a never-ending climb on Sugarland Mountain trail to reach site #21. One look around revealed several abnormalities for a Smoky Mountain campsite. The first being the site was plunked down on a steep, boulder-strewn mountainside, rather than a flat open area. The second being the site could accommodate one group only, making it far more (Scott: special) (Jess: creepy) compared to many of the other sites in the park which are clustered together for group camping. After a few drinks and a freeze-dried dinner by the fire, we retired to the tent where we spent most the night comforting each other into believing that the rustling outside was just the wind.
All-in-all we hiked 16 miles in three days, a nice little loop accentuated by pretty mountain scenery and a refreshing lack of people/cars/technology. Both days it was 70 and sunny. Not a bad start to the trip I’d say.
Now to Memphis for some BBQ ribs!