I managed to cover 22 miles this past week! Still not tons, but I’m getting there. Eleven of those miles were spent on my family vacation. I flew into Atlanta Friday night and headed with my parents to Gatlinburg, TN. What a WILD place! Mountain town meets Disneyland for adults meets Daytona Beach on biker weekend, with Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum thrown in there. We were fortunate enough to find a nice restaurant where I indulged in BBQ ribs, a baked potato, broccoli, and yummy warm rolls. This was the perfect pre-hike meal.
Sunday morning we set off to hike up to the top of Mount Leconte, the third highest peak in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at 6,593 feet. There are a few different trails to take to the top, and we chose Alum Cave Trail. The hike up was about 5.5 miles (net climb: 2,560 feet) and took nearly 4 hours. Here we are about a mile or so into the hike. Up to this point the hike had been along a pretty manageable path. Then we had to go across a log bridge and up very steep steps through a cave. From there it only got more challenging. Many times we were hiking along a tight rock path, holding onto a cable to keep our balance.
Throughout the hike my family split into a few groups based on pace. We caught up with each other several times, and joined together to enjoy a long lunch break at Alum Cave. This is one of my favorite places on the trail! Wide open rock space with water streaming down from the mountain above us! Refreshingly cool mountain water felt so good halfway through the hike.
Once we got to the lodge, we settled into the (tiny and electricity-free) cabins and took a short hike to the VERY top of the mountain. Here I am above the clouds!
It got super windy while we were up there and we watched the clouds roll in, which unfortunately ruined our chances of seeing a gorgeous sunset. We headed back down to camp for an early dinner. After the long hike we were exhausted and starving, so we headed to bed not long after we ate. As soon I fell asleep, I was woken up by the most outrageous storm ever! Lightning and thunder were rolling and crashing literally on top of us! The rain poured and poured, 3.5 inches or so in only five hours. The walkway through camp was a pouring stream! I was happy when the storm ended to finally get some sleep, but then heard some crazy noises in the cabin. An empty bag of Fritos in the trash drew in a friendly little mouse- eww! My dad put the trash on the front porch (not really the best place to put it-BEARS!) and I fell asleep to MANY mice scurrying across the porch in hopes of a Fritos crumb.
Monday morning we had fresh baked pancakes and eggs for breakfast, packed our bags, and headed back down the mountain. WOAH! The trail we had hiked up turned into a creek/stream/river. It made the hike down more challenging and honestly more fun! I tried my best to straddle much of it (which led me to very sore glutes today!) but when we reached a bridge that was partly flooded, I had no choice but to take off my shoes and wade through the water. We made it down the mountain much faster, two hours and 45 minutes, and I was definitely sad to see the hike end! I told my dad that I’m happy to do any hike anywhere with him, so long as we sleep in hotels with power and not mice 🙂 What can I say, I am a city girl!!!
Here is the map of the trail up to the top of the mountain.
We got a family photo in front of the lodge to commemorate the trip. Covering 11 miles together in two days was quite a feat. I love that my family enjoys fitness and values health so much to build a vacation around it! It was definitely one I’ll never forget.