Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Sat/Sun - 5/14-5/15 - Hiking in the Smoky Mountains

Sat 5/14 - Mount LeConte via the Bullhead trail. 15 miles. Over 4,000 feet elevation gain. Highest elevation - 6,593 feet.
This hike was ~15 miles. It started outside Gatlinburg, TN on the Bullhead trail and climbed relentlessly up 7.5 miles to the peak above Mount LeConte. There were only a few brief spots of flat/rolling terrain.  This hike was tough. Coming down wasn't much easier due to 7.5 miles of down hill pounding. We came down Rainbow Falls trail instead of Bullhead. Mistake.  BIG mistake. The trail down was VERY rocky and uneven, making the downhill even harder on the knees and body.

We stopped for lunch at Mount LeConte lodge. It was a nice break out of the wind/cold. Really cool rustic lodge.  There are a bunch of cabins for rent, restaurant is family style service for dinner, there's no roads into the lodge. To stay, you've got to hike in and out. :)  Despite it being difficult, this was a great hike.  It was a bit socked in at the top when we were there so views weren't great, but wonderful anyway.

Sun 5/15 - Mount Cammerer Hike.  11 miles. 3,000 feet elevation gain. Highest elevation - 5,054 feet.
This was an up and down hike again today. Up nearly 4 miles, then rolling for 1.5 to the Fire Tower. Great 360 degree views.  There was ice all over the trees at the top. Started the hike in shorts and t-shirt. Had to stop part way up and put on hat, gloves, long shirt, jacket. It got COLD.

We ate lunch on some rocks by the fire tower.  I went to set my hiking poles down and almost dropped them on a rattlesnake and a copper head sunning themselves at the edge of the rocks under a shrub.  We ate lunch on the rock about 10 feet from the rattlesnake.  After doing some reading about snakes and some time to reflect, this was a VERY STUPID thing to do. We should have moved elsewhere.  Apparently some snakes can get quite aggressive and protect their territory. I didn't know this.  Good thing to know.


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