Hiking Charlies Bunion

It was the end of summer and I was itching to get back to the mountains.

So imagine my excitement when I noticed I had two days off in a row. Turns out that’s all I needed to make the 3 ish hour drive to the smokies, camp for the night, and drive back after an awesome hike in the morning.

I turned to Pinterest for hiking inspiration, settled on Charlies Bunion, and packed up the car for my first solo trip.

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Yeah, I did the picture…

After a bit of research, I drove to Elkmont Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and found an available site. Since it was only my second time using the tent, I was nervous about getting it set up properly. But I didn’t want anyone noticing, so I pretended to know what I was doing. Luckily, it was a pretty painless process (except that I forgot a hammer.)

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There was still some sunlight left so I hopped back in my car and drove to Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the park.

Now, I will admit: I was not excited about this. I expected it to be touristy. And taking a paved ramp up to an observation tower did not sound like a challenge to me.

I am not too proud to say I was wrong. Sure, it was pretty crowded, but that didn’t end up bothering me. Also, I was huffing and puffing my way to the top.

That view WAS spectacular, though!

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Did I mention it was raining on and off??

Soon enough it was time to call it a day, so I headed back to camp.

The next morning I got up and drove to Newfound Gap to the start of Charlies Bunion.

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Not a bad way to wake up!

Now THIS was a busy place. It’s a great view from the parking lot and plenty of things to read and take pictures of. But this was not what I came to see.

After figuring out which way on the Appalachian Trail I needed to go, I was on my way.

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My first white blaze!

There were some people early on that hiked a little bit down the trail, but it soon became only me trudging along.

And I was alone.

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What have I gotten myself in to?!

I’ve solo hiked before, but not this far…and I actually prefer there to be more people on the trail near by.

For the most part, I was comfortable with this hike, though. And as far as the physical aspects goes, this was not too bad. It was 4 miles there, 4 miles back, and mostly along the ridge of the mountain. The ONLY thing was that I was in my 10 year old tennis shoes…and my feet were DONE halfway through.

Man, I have never felt pain like that. But I digress.

I left the sun at the parking lot and the closer I got to my destination, the chillier and cloudier it got.

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You know it’s gonna be good if it’s slightly dangerous…

Once I got to the Bunion, there were way more people there than I thought there would ever be. It’s funny like that: you see barely anyone on the way there, but suddenly you’re surrounded. I don’t mind, though, because you know you have at least one thing in common with these people.

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Darn it, clouds!

It’s also funny that sometimes when you get to the end point, you have to wait your turn to take a picture. But I made it seconds before the clouds really set in and the view was completely gone. I waited about a half hour to see if it would clear up before heading back.

Unfortunately, it was time to head back to Nashville after that. I said goodbye to the mountains one more time and went home.

I think Charlies Bunion will always hold a special place in my heart.

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