We got started on a trail that skirted the Clingmans Dome observation tower.
Everything was so luscious and green. Looking back on my pictures at home, it's hard to believe I was surrounded by all of this just a few days ago. We had beautiful, chilly weather the first day, in the seventies during the day and the fifties at night. The chilly weather made me anxious for fall in a few short weeks. Summer's been hot, y'all.
Good thing we had two experienced hikers in the group-- otherwise this sign on the ground might have made it a little difficult. You can get an idea of how far we hiked-- about 4.7 to Silers Bald, plus another halfish mile to our shelter for the night.
This is Silers Bald. The white arrows (or blaze) point hikers toward the AT.
About a half mile later, we arrived at our shelter for the night. We shared it with seven other people, which wasn't so bad until several of them started sawing logs midway through the night. Thankfully, it rained the rest of the night and drowned out all the snoring. :-)
Since the rain helped clear off some of the smog, the views of the rest of the mountain chain were even more beautiful when we hiked back the next day.
The Smoky Mountains are named for the smoke-like fog and clouds that hang over the range. We saw more fog than we did clear skies (the picture above was one of the few completely clear shots I got). It was a strange sensation to know we were so far up on a mountain that we were inside a cloud. Here's Mr. GI in front of the last, most vertical part of our hike. We were headed through the fog to the top of that mountain. Inside a cloud, I'm telling you.
On the way back in, we tried the trip up to the observation tower at Clingmans Dome. You can tell from this picture that there wasn't much to see from the top.
But on the way down from the tower, we caught a glimpse (from the paved path!) of a black bear. Little too close for comfort for us, but several other park visitors were trying to get closer to the bear. Natural selection at its finest.
About ten miles after we started, we made it back to the parking lot and headed home. But not before taking a triumphant last shot.
What sort of adventures have you been on lately? This was my first time on the AT, and it was only my second backpacking trip. My first trip was on the Outer Banks... four days of sandy, sunnny hiking. Needless to say, this weekend greatly improved my opinion of backpacking. Mr. GI, on the other hand, has hiked quite a bit of the AT, including the stretch we did this weekend. It's nice to see him so content. :-)