Days 19-21: Charlie has the best bunion
May 1: Derrick's Knob Shelter - Mt. Collins Shelter
May 2: Mt. Collins Shelter - Peck's Corner Shelter
May 3: Peck's Corner Shelter - Cosby Knob Shelter
The Smokies, the Smokies.
Based on my research, I expected cold, wet weather in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I was not prepared for this idyllic sunshine, and defenseless, I've been swept off my feet. I'm in love with the Smoky Mountains.
Two days ago, we hiked up the highest mountain on the AT and passed mile 200. From Clingman's Dome, you can see for miles in every direction. The huge concrete viewing tower does not fit in with the rest of the landscape, but I could forgive civilization for intruding on the wilderness. On a cool, sunny day like that, I could forgive anything.
Yesterday, there was a gorgeous walk to Newfound Gap through dense pine woods. I loved that forest, and this forest again where we are tonight. Everything is alive here, even the dead things. Grass and moss grow straight out of rotting fallen logs. Crumbling stumps are home to thousands of insects and tiny mushrooms. The ground is soft and springy underfoot.
The animals here are not afraid. I know this is a problem, one that stems from humans behaving inappropriately with their food, but in the moment when the deer or rabbit or bear just stares back at you... those moments, out of context of the problem that has produced them, are magical.
After trail magic from kind souls at Newfound Gap, we hiked to Charlie's Bunion which was my favorite spot on the A.T. so far. I'm sure on weekends it is crowded with day hikers, but yesterday for 15 minutes it was only me and Etienne. The height made my pulse quicken, but the rocks were pocked with easy handholds, so even I could scramble up for a picture with no trouble. The view was not as expansive as Clingman's Dome, but the valley was steeper, blanketed with trees and studded the with bare rock faces. There was no road to get there, no concrete, and for the moment, no people. It felt wild.
There were more pine forests that afternoon and today. I'm still a bit sick so I don't know for sure, but I imagine it smells like Christmas. No more bear sightings yet, but I haven't given up hope!