At around 5:45 this morning, Stephanie rolls over and asks, “Is that your alarm?”
“No, that’s a bird.”
There was a very musical bird outside our tent making the same sound over and over and over again. I understand why Stephanie thought it might be my alarm.
Today is an exciting day. We are going to take a 9 mile hike on the Appalachian Trail to a destination called Charlies Bunion. It was rated as a Top 10 Smoky Mountain hikes and appeared to have some killer views.
The trailhead is about an hour from our campground. We took our first steps of the hike at 9am, armed with plenty of water and snacks.
I found the whole concept of the Appalachian Trail fascinating. The trail is around 2200 miles long and runs from Maine to Georgia. The trail is marked approximately every 70 feet with a “white blaze” – a white painted rectangle about 2 by 6 inches. These are painted on trees mostly, but could be anything that is available. There are 165,000 of these on the trail!
The first three or so miles of our hike seemed like it was just a steady hike up. Not a lot of relief. At some point it started raining, and it would rain off and on the duration of our hike. Thankfully we were pretty prepared with our gear.
At one point, I asked Mallory what direction we were going. Marissa answered, “Up.”
Roughly 3 miles in to the hike, we came upon the Ice House Shelter. This is a shelter that hikers can sleep overnight, prepare a meal, and catch up with other hikers. We stopped there both coming and going, and there were other hikers there both times.
There was even a pit toilet not far from the shelter. I’m sure that is a luxury for these long distance hikers.
Until we got within maybe the last quarter mile of the our destination, we really did not have any scenic vistas. It was raining. It was hazy/smoky and we could not really see past the forest around us. When we did get toward the end and into more clearings on the trail, it was so great to see other ridges across the valleys.
After three hours of hiking, we finally made it! Charlie’s Bunion!
Regarding the unique name, the story goes that two hikers were resting at this spot in 1929, when one hiker named Charlie took off his boots and socks. Charlie had a bunion that resembled the rocks and his fellow hiker said, “Charlie, I’m going to get this place put on a government map for you”. And there you go.
When we first arrived the sky was pretty clear, but that only seemed to last a few minutes. Even as we tried to take a group picture at the bunion before we left the spot, the only thing you can see in the background is haze! And then the rain came. We grabbed our gear and began the trek back.
We made much better time returning than going out. Even though the trail is rated as moderate, it was pretty grueling for us. (When I drove us back to the campground after our hike, everybody took a nap.)
We parked at Newfound Gap, and it just so happens that the Tennessee / North Carolina state line runs right through the parking lot. Photo op!
Marissa really wanted to hit another Visitor Center, so we drove the few miles to the Clingmans Dome Visitor Center. However, when we parked in the lot, the rain had returned pretty heavy, and the temperature had dropped to 60. We decided the visitor center could wait for another day!
When we returned to Townsend, where we are staying, the temperature was 85 degrees and sunny. We stopped for ice cream and enjoyed our well-deserved treats.
Once back at the campsite, the girls went for a swim in the river. Verdict: cold.
We made kebobs for dinner and monkey bread for dessert. Everything tastes great when you are as tired as we are. After dinner, the girls enjoyed some alone time.
The evening ended with us making plans to visit Dollywood on Friday. This was an unexpected surprise as we looked at getting tickets several weeks ago, but were unable to do so. Fun times ahead!