After a glorious week off in the Smoky Mountains, I’m back at work (typing from work actually…) and have an unbelievable urge to drop everything and leave and hike the AT. I sincerely believe this will be part of my 5-year plan. If I can’t thru-hike it…I want to at least take time off to do a massive section.
It’s not entirely out of reach, and if I could get B in on the idea it would be even better.
It’s funny. Of course Cheryl Strayed made me green with envy on her PCT adventure, and ultimately I wanted that to be where I spent months of my time walking to the next waypoint. But I feel like it’s all you, AT. You have won me over and I’m going to be with you someday. Maybe not soon, but someday.
We have this one life. What is a month, 2 months, even 6 months off of work? It’ll always be there when you return. I’m inspired.
I’ve taken 1.5 months off from my exercise and diet regimen (boy can I feel it…) and today the fire has been lit yet again. I’m ready to feel comfortable and strong again in my body, and while the last 6-7 weeks of summer have been heavenly and filled with booze, pizza, bread, cheese and junk…I’m ready to commit again to bettering myself for future me.
Let me move on to some of the highlights of my vacation!
Last Saturday was kind of a disaster. We left on time but the whole way there we bickered and I was moody and I couldn’t let go of “at home things” (work, trying to get better at saving money, my floor in the shop having water damage and needing repair, the dogs being looked after etc.)
Finally in the last 2 hour stretch before we hit Sevierville we found a Chick-Fil-A and all was well (only because of the extra pickles of course.) M & C were along on this trip, so we met for breakfast at 8am on the way out, but we drove down separately and on our own time (as well as the way back) and ultimately still ended up meeting at the cabin within 15 minutes of each other. We got there first so we claimed our room and I was quick to make a drink after we had settled in. It’s pumpkin beer season. I’m all in.
The room we took was the same room we had 4 years ago (this is our second time at this cabin…it is a treat!) and the main reason I claimed it again is because of the majestic soaking tub that resides in the bathroom. I used it every day we were there.
The next day, Sunday, was the only day available while we were in town for white water rafting, but after the long drive down and the added pressure to decide so we could book it ASAP – we all opted to go ahead and skip it since we had done it on the last trip 4 years ago.
Some photos of our cabin below. Excuse our mess!
We instead spent Sunday lounging in pjs and taking in the beautiful scenery from the upper deck of our cabin. We drank homemade Moscow Mules and seasonal beers and switched to wine when we broke out the cheese, bread and oil spread.
2 liters Shiraz
1 fifth Honeycrisp Apple vodka (I used SKYY vodka)
1 half gallon of apple cider
2 cups of orange juice (add more to taste)
6 -8 Cinnamon sticks
2 Honeycrisp apples cut into sections
2 Oranges cut into slices
Sprite or club soda is optional, I didn’t use it.
Let it “marinate” together for 12+ hours and holy smokes, it is like apple cinnamon happiness in a glass. We drank over ice, but I can almost guarantee this would be spectacular prepared warm in a mug for chilly bonfire nights!
Monday we hit the Gatlinburg strip and rummaged through some souvenir shops and moonshineries. It was a very laid back and warm day.
Then we spent the afternoon at The Smoky Mountain Brewery. We tried 10 of their select beers in a flight at 5oz each. We discussed plans for later at home regarding our annual fall and winter camping weekends, a backpacking trip through Shawnee and an awesome project she was doing at work and lost track of time. We had been sitting there drinking for a few hours before C & B finished their golf game and met us for a late lunch.
Wednesday B and I ventured off on our own and stopped for breakfast before hitting Great Smoky Mountain National Park. We were aiming to do the Alum Cave Trail but due to seasonal construction it wouldn’t be open until Friday. So we instead headed to Clingman’s Dome. The highest point in the Smoky Mountains at 6,689.94 feet. The half mile uphill trek to the top absolutely wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it wasn’t the easiest either. I could really feel the last 6 weeks of my slacking nipping at me. The view was worth it.
(We have a ton of photos on our camera that I haven’t even begun to go through or upload yet. Soon!)
Thursday the boys golfed again, and since M had woken up not feeling too great she and I had another afternoon of cabin lounging which was fine by me. We tidied up, sipped on wine and relaxed. Any day I don’t have to be at home or work, you will find me content to do absolutely nothing.
That night I went to bed early so we could get up and head to the Alum Cave trailhead. I laid in bed and obsessively browsed Reddit, reviews and AllTrails about the hike to the summit of Mt. LeConte. It was listed as strenuous and difficult, but stunning and enjoyable. I was determined; B didn’t think we’d even make it halfway. I mentally prepared myself for the challenge that lie ahead. Little did I know just how much of a challenge it would truly be!
Let’s just say I will never complain about flat-ish 7-9 mile hikes in Missouri being hard anymore. No. Missouri has nothing on the constant incline that Mt. LeConte threw at us. The steady and daunting uphill climb that only hiking up the side of a damn mountain could be. But we did it. We did it and we high fived at the top. Our first mountain summit. Even if it was only an elevation gain of 2,763 feet we did it together and stayed (somewhat) positive through that painful, breathless first 5 miles.
We sat on the back porch of the dining hall at Mt. LeConte lodge and ate the sack lunches we bought. Also, the lodge and cabins are so unique and rustic. There’s no electricity so everything is heated by fire and darkness is lit by oil lamps. We drank hot cocoa and listened to hikers sitting around us talking about their experiences, and where they were going next. They all made this seem easy. Effortless. We still had 5 miles to go back down.
Also, at the summit where the lodge is there is a little gift shop. If you hike to the top (there’s no other way up!) you can buy a t-shirt that has the year and “I hiked it” printed on. Of course we had to get them because B is a t-shirt hoarder:
It was a little after 1:40 when we decided to set back on the trail. We hiked up 5 miles in around 3 hours and 10 minutes, with sporadic rest stops to catch our breath and take in the scenery. B walked ahead of me a lot and waited for me to catch up. It took us a little over 2 and a half to get back down. We didn’t rest once on the descent.
We saw so many different types of people on this trail. A LOT of older folks. I’d say the majority was between the ages of 45-70; male and female alike. We passed families and couples that started with or a little ahead of us that were only at the halfway point of the ascent when we were on the way back down. We booked it.
I am a pro at “hike your own hike” whereas B is a firm believer of “get to the destination as fast as possible.” I make him meet me in the middle most of the time because hiking for me is a focus. There is no rush. It allows me to slow down from the busy-ness that is every day. I can concentrate on my breathing, think things through, and mentally and physically refresh and reset myself. B is a one track mind kind of guy. I am a network of many intertwined tracks. A multi-tasking extraordinaire. We even each other out greatly. I’m so grateful for him and that he enjoys these things right alongside me. It makes the experience special. Each hike we have ever taken together, there’s a specific memory or moment that means something. We always push each other. This time it was 10 miles round trip up and down one of the highest points in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
We did it.
Saturday was very painful. Our calves and ankles were stiff and our hips and thighs were sore. It hurt so good. We had to pack up the cabin and drive 8 hours home still. It was a very long day. Coming home from an incredible vacation is so hard. It leaves you wanting just one more day. We reluctantly said our goodbyes to our beautiful cabin and M&C.
Revisiting our trip via this entry has left me feeling full and empty at the same time. I don’t want to live here in the Midwest forever. It’s not for me. My heart is in the trees, and the creeks. My soul is in the wind and the mountains. But where? I haven’t figured that out yet. Maybe it’s the PNW, maybe it’s the Appalachians. Maybe it’s Colorado. One day my heart will know where it belongs. For now I will travel until it settles.
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