Sunday, July 24, 2022

Clingmans Dome from Newfound Gap

Clingmans Dome from Newfound Gap
Appalachian Trail
Newfound Gap Elevation: 5,049 ft.
Distance: 8.96 mi. 
Elevation Gain: 2,796 ft.
Start Time: 2:38pm
End Time: 7:45pm

Trip Report:
All throughout our week at Pigeon Forge and Great Smoky Mountains National Park I had contemplated a fun way to do a family activity with Clingmans Dome. I also wanted to make sure we had the chance to hike it. The obvious solution kept pointing out a group hiking it from Newfound Gap with the remainder driving the road to the top. The main question was merely who would join the hike and when to go. The plans ended up getting pushed to our last day. Our group of 8 for the hike made it to Newfound Gap just after 2:30pm and we parked and made ready to go. We carried the basics of food and water but not much else. The weather was looking pretty good for our afternoon. Though temps were around 90 down in Gatlinburg, it was just over 70 up at 5,000 feet. We made our way on to the Appalachian Trail crossing the highway at the gap.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Little Greenbriar Trail Run (Great Smoky Mountains NP)

Little Greenbriar Trail Run
Little Greenbriar Trail to Little Brier Gap
Trailhead Elevation: 1,843 ft.
Distance: 3.70 mi.
Elevation Gain: 609 ft.
Start Time: 7:18am
End Time: 8:04am

Trip Report:
The Little Greenbriar trailhead is a small parking area off Line Springs Rd which is just south of Wear Valley. This trail essentially marks part of the northern boundary of Smoky Mountains National Park. The parking has room for only 4-5 cars. I arrived about 7:15am on a Friday and I met one other hiker when I started. At finish a third car had shown up.

The trail starts off with a climb and then rolls for awhile mostly climbing but occasional flat stretches mixed in. At 1.3mi I topped out and then dropped about a 100 feet before reaching Little Brier Gap. This trail junction was my turnaround for the day. From here you can go due south on the Little Brier Gap trail or you can go east towards either Cove Mountain or Laurel Falls. Either of those trails can actually connect a hiker to close to the Visitor Center for GSMNP.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Mount LeConte via Alum Cave Trail

Mount LeConte
Alum Cave Trail
Trailhead Elevation: 3,872 ft.
Distance: 11.32 mi.
Elevation Gain: 2,935 ft.
Start Time: 7:25am
End Time: 1:36pm

Trip Report:
This is certainly not a well kept secret, but the Alum Cave Trail leading up to Mt. LeConte is one of the classic hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains.  Given its combination of interesting geological sites, a mountain climb, a great distance challenge, and hopefully big views, it checked all the boxes for our kind of fun.  I had even seen trip reports suggesting ledgy portions of the trail and even sections with cable handrails which drew my attention.  It is worth clearing up however, that there is nothing technical about this entire hike in the climbing sense.  Neither is there any breathtaking exposure at any portion.  I make both of those climbs from the perspective of a hiker who has ascended all of Colorado's 54 14ers and have seen all sorts of varying levels of exposure and climbing technicality.  This trail does have portions where it narrows to a few feet wide for a moment with steep tree-filled slopes.  It had one or two spots with some wash-outs on the trail that created brief sections where you certainly would not want to fall.  But let's just say, I wouldn't have hesitated for a moment to take my 3-year old all the way up this trail if she could handle the distance.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Cataract Falls (Great Smoky Mountains NP)

Cataract Falls
Fighting Creek Nature Trail to Cove Mountain Trail in Great Smoky Mountains NP
Trailhead Elevation: 1,473 ft.
Distance: 1.30 mi.
Elevation Gain: 138 ft.
Start Time: 1:58pm
End Time: 2:43pm

Trip Report:
Looking for a good family-friendly hike near the Sugarlands Visitor Center, we talked to a nice ranger for good advice. He made two very close suggestions: Laurel Falls and Cataract Falls. Laurel Falls would be a drive down the road and something like a 1.3mi hike. Cataract Falls could be hit from the VC with perhaps just over a half mile hike. We settled on the latter.

Friday, July 8, 2022

One Thing Is Needed

[Originally published in the Monroe News on July 8, 2022]

Travel back with me to the 1990s and reminisce about arguably one of the funniest and most enjoyable movies of the decade.  For me it was an instant classic.  The movie I have in mind is City Slickers starring Billy Crystal.  Its a lovely story of 3 New York men going through mid-life crises who decide to join a guided cattle drive on a ranch out west.  Oh what fun they had!

Along their journey, Billy Crystal’s character Mitch talks to an old cowboy named Curly (played by Jack Palance) and the conversation goes like this:

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?
Mitch: No, what?

Curly (holding up one finger): This.
Mitch: Your finger?

Curly: One thing.  Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t
mean s***t.
Mitch: That’s great but, what’s the one thing?
Curly: That’s what you gotta figure out.

The rest of the story largely revolves around Mitch’s journey to discover that one thing in his life and by the end he seems to find it in his wife and kids.  

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