Had a beautiful walk to the observation tower on top of old Smokey (highest point on trail).
The day promised to be special when I went for a pee and had a deer cozying up to me. And when we started walking this was the view:
At the next shelter (after the one we camped at) we found 2 lovely women who walked up there the afternoon before to serve trail magic (and stayed over at the shelter for the night). All they had left was 2 naartjies, which was a treat anyway as fresh fruit is gold on the trail. When we left the one said “Happy Trails” (the typical greeting on the trail) and the other (a medical doctor who had volunteered in Swaziland) just said “Peace”. The day was getting even better already.
At some point the scenery changed and we walked through a coniferous forest. It was like being on a filmset of Lord of the Rings. And the thickest moss blankets on trees I have ever seen:
The tower doesn’t have stairs, but a ramp to the top. And at the top the views are indescribable – 360 degrees of blue mountains around you.
There are many local tourists visiting the tower. They all come for a stay in Gatlinberg (the Clarence of the Smokies, but with much less class!) and drive up to the Tower for an outing).
From there we hot-footed another 10km (to get us to 20km for the day) to get to a parking lot from where we hitch-hiked to Gatlinberg to shop (food and a new raincoat for me, by Friday the rain will be back). Got picked up by a very interesting character, seems he is into ecological research as a retirement hobby, he is here from Atlanta to guide some walks for people interested in the spring flowers in the mountains. He has walked the Camino, is very irritated by all the fat people in America, and apologised for the Americans not having converted to the metric system. He was no doubt a highly intelligent person but also kind, driving us all the way into town even though he was camping outside of town.
The drive out to Gatlinberg was as beautiful as the walk in the medieval looking conifer forest. All lush and green. Only when we got closer to the town could we see the damage caused by a big 2018 fire in the area.
All in all we had a great day. With a slight blemish when we arrived in the most common, not-suitable for food shopping, amusement park looking town Gatlinberg.
It seems as if it was once a quaint little town but has become an artificial and busy tourist spot. Somebody said it’s the Las Vegas of Tennesee.
Frankly, I would rather be back in the woods than here (timing dictates that we – and most of the thru hikers re-supplying here, has to stay over and rush back to the trail 2mo).
I would rather be on the trail than in town – that’s quite a statement!
But we went out a bit later for a beer at the Smokey Mountain Brewery and that made the town more acceptable. 😊