Several months ago, I decided that I wanted to go to Great Smoky Mountain National Park because I like national parks and mountains and it turns out that you don’t actually need a reason to do the things you want to do, if you have the ability to do them, you can just… go do them. Adulthood does in fact have its perks sometimes.
Anyway, I decided that we would go and I found a weekend we were free and booked a campsite in the park for October. In my quick research, I learned that October is one of the peak months for visitors to GSMNP, for good reason. (That reason, in case you’re wondering, is that it’s gorgeous. Also no mosquitoes. Those are two reasons.) On the day of our camping reservation, we hopped in the car, which we had packed the night before, and drove to Tennessee.
Tennessee is within a reasonable driving distance from Michigan; it takes about the same amount of time as a regular workday, though requires actually driving the entire time and not stopping to chat with anybody or staring into space, which is how it differs from a regular workday. We made it to our campsite after sunset but managed to get the tent pitched before last light. (Pitching a tent in the dark sucks.)(But at least it was this tent which is fairly easy to pitch in the dark.)
We did not have a whole lot of time, and our time was shortened by the fact that we didn’t bring any food with us so had to go into town for meals instead of cooking at camp — Gatlinburg is nuts, you guys — so we only had time to do a couple of short hikes. The first one we did was to the top of Clingmans Dome, which is a short, steep climb. It doesn’t feel that short when in the middle of it, but they do offer benches along the path if you need to stop. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that no matter how much I want to stop climbing, it’s usually harder to get started again once I’ve stopped and lost momentum, so I just keep trudging uphill.
The other hike we did was the one up to Laurel Falls, which is a 2.6-mile out-and-back up (and back down) Cove Mountain. Again, just a short trail but 100% climbing from the trailhead to the falls. Worth it? Absolutely. The falls were beautiful, if overrun by people. (Clingmans Dome was also VERY BUSY.) The views of the fall colors covering the adjacent mountains were also worth the climb.
I’m glad we went; being lulled to sleep in a campground by the sound of a river is worth the price of admission alone. (Fun fact: GSMNP doesn’t charge admission!) I enjoyed it and would like to see it again sometime when I have more time to dedicate to some of the other hikes, though I do have to admit that the amount of time we spent sitting in traffic to get to some of the park destinations was bonkers and I didn’t love that part even a little bit.
Another national park off the list! And it only took me 2.5 months to get around to writing anything about it!
Which one should we go to next?