Since the only plans I have this afternoon are watching the Olympics, now is as good as time as any to start posting about our road trip.
We woke up early on Saturday (July 30th) to head southeast. Apart from a quick stop at Waffle House in Corbin, KY to fuel up (just like last year) we headed straight for the Great Smokey Mountains National Park (national park #2 of the summer, if you’re counting.) We used the bathrooms at the visitor center, topped off our water bottles, and drove up Newfound Gap to get the trailhead for the 8-mile round trip to Charlie’s Bunion. We were so ready.
Until Nick accidentally locked the keys in the car at the trail head.
What ensued in the next fifteen minutes was disbelief, the realization that we had no cell service, a kind couple letting Nick borrow their phone to call AAA, trying to explain that we were literally on the state border, and waiting on hold for a long time. Eventually, Nick told me that at least one of us should have a good day, and that I should go ahead and set out without him. What a sweet husband.
So, I set out on a section of the Appalachian Trail that hugs the border between Tennessee and North Carolina.
I was prepared to fly solo, but I ended up joining up with a friendly family of five on the way out. They were keeping a slower pace than I would have alone, but it was good to have conversation, and made me feel less worried about bears. I stayed with them for about three miles, but when they told me I should go faster if I wanted, I did so because I had told Nick I would only be gone a couple hours (it ended up being double my prediction.) I made it to a shelter house to take a water break, and fell in with two other groups. Together we pressed on to Charlie’s Bunion.
Now, I told Nick that the view wasn’t worth the hike, although I know he didn’t believe me. (Nick, stop reading here.) It was actually breathtaking. The clouds were low, but were clearing out. It felt wonderfully cool up so high. My words don’t really do it justice.
At the formation called Charlie’s Bunion, there are two boulders you can climb up on. I stayed on the one closer to the mountainside, while the guy I ended up hiking back with went out to the farther one. Call me a wimp, but I’m pretty sure the view was the same…
I had great hiking companions on the return trip, which made the time fly by. I think that’s good, because once you’ve already seen the best part of the hike, heading home can be anti-climactic.
I met Nick back in the parking lot, where he told me that he gave up on AAA when a park ranger came by. It wasn’t easy, but they were able to get into the locked car. Nick was then able to hike for about five miles on the trail, so at least he can say he’s been on the AT. I also told him that Charlie’s Bunion isn’t going anywhere, so we can always get a do-over.
By this time, we were both starving. As soon as we got cell phone service leaving the park, we called ahead to the Mellow Mushroom in Sevierville. We demolished a large mega veggie in no time.
We then made the rest of the drive back toward Knoxville, where we stayed in an Airbnb room overnight.