This year, it was just me and Phil. We left Thursday morning around 8:45 and drove through Maggie Valley, cut the corner on the parkway to the Oconoluftee Ranger Station going into the GSMNP. Wildfires were burning all around, but most of the s moke stayed below and south of us. You can see the smoke from the Newfound Gap Parking Lot.
Thursday, November 10
8.1 miles, 2466′ elev. gain
It was a very dry hike in. We hiked the Appalachian Trail and the Boulevard Trail to the Lodge at the top of the mountain. It is officially 8.1 miles and is the longest trail to the top. It is our favorite trail and although it is the longest trail, it doesn’t have the elevation gain you get on Rainbow Falls or the Bullhead.
We took a lunch break 5.3 miles in at Anakeesta Ridge. Note Important Information … this is the elbow of a switchback and has huge fallen trees on the outside of the elbow that allow for a lady friendly bathroom break. Behind the fallen trees is totally sheltered from any approaching hikers.
So, from there, you just keep going till you get to the top.
We didn’t have to deal with the smoke from all of the wildfires much on the way up. But, 2 days later, the smoke had increased and we walked into it about a mile from the top of the trail.
It was quiet on top of the mountain this year. There were no midnight rescues, no injuries, and no bear incidences.
The drought there had been bad, though. Their water collection tanks were dangerously low and the flush toilets were shut down. Then, the next morning, they shut down the outside water pumps and the hot water facet on the outside of the dining room. If anyone needed to fill a water bottle, they had to ask the staff to do it and this was for paying guests only. Day hikers were on their own or they could buy a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. The crew had not had showers in 3 days.
Friday, November 11
2 Hikes – Top of Alum Cave Trail and Myrtle Point
4.2 miles – 987′ elev. gain
The “Trails Forever” repair crews had completed the work on Alum Cave Trail. We haven’t been able to to hike it yet, so we walked down from the top to the top of the upper staircase. The trail had been extensively chiseled out giving a bit wider sections next to the cables. The log was removed on Monotony Ridge and with stairs chiseled into the rocks. The crews chiseled stairs everywhere. Impressive! Great job guys.
We didn’t go that far, but the bluffs had well over 100 steps cut into the rock. That was long needed. It had been a slip and slide area since I had been going there in the mid 1990’s.
At dinner that night, we found out that the crew would be allowed to shower. FINALLY!!! They seemed a lot more chipper after the news.
Saturday, November 12
LeConte Lodge to Newfound Gap
8.1 miles, 1272′ elev. gain
We got up and rushed through breakfast. We had over 8 miles to hike out before the Clemson game started at 3:30! So, we got off the mountain at 8:45 and made it home with over an hour to spare. It was a great trip.