I was so looking forward to going back to Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park this summer. This plan, of course, was if my relocation went according to my timeline. The dissertation gods were vengeful and spiteful this summer, and so I never got my re-treat summertime trip…. I am going to just have to wait for that spectacular firefly light show another year. Then, I might even get some more time to do something I loved: hike the Appalachian Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Perhaps I’ll make a drive out for a weekend and maybe will get lucky spotting some late autumn color. But first, I must finish the dissertation draft!
Two summers ago my Alabama family brought me up to Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the Smokies for an RV camping trip. We sucked in all the Pigeon Forge tourist delights, including dinner shows. I swooned over the quaint cuteness of tiny downtown Gatlinburg, the gateway to the Smokies. One day, I got to play “hiker girl,” and left the hot mess that is Edie with them while they dropped me off at one point in the park and let me hike through to Clingmans Dome so I could get a tiny taste of the Appalachian Trail.
I was barely healed from a fracture in my right foot (less than a month), which occurred too soon after healing from the double spiral fracture of my left tibia and fibula (thanks, Edie). I was still in physical therapy for both injuries so I needed something long enough to be full day consuming but fairly gentle on my cardio and limited strength/stability. I found a trail that would take me through Newfound Gap and end up at Clingmans Dome.
My family dropped me off at my predetermined starting point and we agreed to a general window of time to expect me at the pick up point. I was more excited than they were when my check in with a park ranger revealed there was bear activity reported in the area. While I have no desire for an up close and personal encounter (I saw The Revenant), I still very much desire to see a bear from more than a tiny brown dot in a distance.
I did not have any black bear sightings, but I did have a near encounter with a wild boar. That was heart rate inducing but not exciting. I am – so – glad the park service has numerous boar deterrents and barriers (I also saw Old Yeller). I am not so glad my camera decided to konk out on me and I got almost no pictures, and all bad ones at that…. Another reason to… go back!
I cannot wait to go back, and after the first glimpse of the great Smokies, you have absolutely no question as to why Rocky Top is University of Tennessee’s fight song and why it is one of the state’s official songs. Whether by birth or adoption, Rocky Top will be a welcome home to any nature lover. And I haven’t even begun to wax poetic about Cades Cove or the waterfalls or the synchronous fireflies — which I WILL see… someday. Oh! And I nearly forgot – the USA’s most visited national park has no entrance fee.