Smoky Mountain National Park
Elevation: 6,593 Feet
Mount LeConte is one of the highlights of the entire Tennessee trip for me. The hiking guidebook I had said if you had time to do one hike, this was the hike to do. I will admit, it was the prettiest area of the park for me.
The day before I had been pretty surprised when my wife spoke up that she wanted to do the hike and even further surprised when my brother-in-law said he was also going to go. I figured I would have a 33% attrition rate by early the next morning, but I wasn't sure who would be the one to fall out.
The next morning, my attrition rate jumped to 66% leaving me as the lone hiker for the day. I threw everything into one pack and headed out early in the morning. The drive from the cabin and through the park were filled with the smell of honeysuckle, pre-heat dampness and thick foliage. No one was on the road all the way to the parking lot to begin the hike.
The hike starts along a refreshingly cool stream falling down smooth rock. It was different from other water-ways I was used to seeing in the south, the water was clear, not muddy and seemed to move at a pretty rapid pace rather than placidly herding itself down its own banks.
I had gotten my hiking boots drenched the night before and thrown them into the dryer, but they were still a bit damp when I put them on. This caused blisters to form pretty much in the first half mile of the hike. I had a couple of strikes going against me already; blisters, no breakfast (because I am dumb) and I am hiking alone. Little did I know that I had more fun coming up because I didn't plan ahead.
I crossed a couple of streams along the way passing an elderly black woman who looked truly petrified to be walking across one of the wooden bridges. I think she was moving at a negative speed and I was sure she would turn back before too long. That is her above.
I didn't see many people on the trail early on, it was nice to be a little bit isolated in the most popular outdoor experience on the east coast. I didn't realize at the time how huge this park was to the east coast. Being from Oregon, I take for granted the fact that we have something like The Smokey Mountain National Park every 60 miles or so. For some people, this is the only forest they will ever see.
The first real attraction you will see is the natural rock archway you have to travel through to get to the other side of the trail. I dig arches and I dig caves. It's small, but fun.
One thing I noticed was the severe lack of wildlife in the park. The entire week were in Tennessee and all of the time I spent in the park, I saw three deer. Lots of snails, millipedes, bugs and frogs, but not much else. This entire hike, I didn't see a single animal. This coming from the park bragging about the most bears per acre than any park in the US. Hrmmm...