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.
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.)
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.