I was thinking about the toughest but memorable hike I ever done in my life, I did in July of 2011. A couple guys and I set out to do this hike in 1 night and two days in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The plan was to park our cars at Big Creek Ranger Station and get a shuttle to take us to Newfound Gap. We would hike the Appalachian Trail starting at Newfound Gap parking lot and hike 33 some miles to our cars at Big Creek Ranger Station.
Day 1: We parked at Big Creek and met the shuttle guy who shuttled us to Newfound Gap. It was a warm summer day in July and tourists were flocking to the park to enjoy the park’s majestic beauty. Despite humidity and drought we was having in the lower elevation that summer, at the elevation we would be hiking the temperature rarely goes over 80 degrees and the humidity isn’t as bad or minimal. We started hiking at Newfound Gap where there were an army of tourists; we would pass a lot of people for the next 4 miles as the tourists are flocking to Charlie Bunion. Charlie Bunion is a well known and popular day hiking destination with a magnificent 180 degrees panoramic view of the valley. You can see Douglas Lake in the distance and Clinch Mountain on a clear day. We left the tourists behind at Charlie Bunion and kept on trekking northbound on the AT. We crossed over a lot of key landmarks such as: The Sawteeth, Laurel Top, Hughes Ridge, Eagle Rock, Mt. Sequoyah, and Mt. Chapman, before arriving to our destination at Tricorner Knob.
Hughes Ridge is one of the most amazing ridge in the Smokies. It situated near Pecks Corner Shelter, it like a 10-20 yards stretch on the AT where if you’re walking northbound, to the left the forage prevent you from seeing anything in summer months and to the right you can see mountains. We sat on that ridge for a 15 minute break just starring at the beauty of the Smokies. It’s one of my favorite place to sit and enjoy mountainous views if you don’t want be near the tourists. (I say this because I haven’t explored much of the other side of the park where Thunderhead Mountain and Shuckstack Fire Tower is located.) After leaving Hughes Ridge, I got a good view from Eagle Rock that was breathtaking. After crossing over Eagle Rock a fog started to engulf the the trail. I was only able to see about 20-30 yards up the trail, then it got thicker as I got closer to the shelter at Tricorner Knob. We finally arrived at Tricorner in sheer exhaustion of walking 7 or 8 hours totaling around 15 some miles.
There were another hiking party already at the shelter and told us they’ve just scared a bear away no more than 5 minutes ago. We told them we didn’t see a bear on the way in and I proceed to cook my food. (Bear or no bear I was hungry!) For a random reason, I looked to my left while cooking, lo and behold a bear no more than 10-15 yards from me just starring at me! I turned to the other hiker and said *pointing as if I was hitching a ride* you mean this bear? This bear was huge!! He wouldn’t run off, no matter what we did. I say after about 5 minutes of pictures being snapped, rocks thrown around him, sticks banging on the tin roof of the shelter, etc., he finally ran off. I went from being tired and hungry to alert and hungry in a span of 40 seconds. I was walking to the privy in the dark paranoid out of my mind and my heart was racing, because that was the closest encounter I had ever had with a bear in all of these years I spent in the woods. It be a crappy way to go sitting in privy and get mauled by a bear…I always try to remind myself of the statical chance of fatal bear attack, but the problem with statistic is that someone gotta be that rare occurrence and hell it could be me! As I got ready to sleep, I was still a little jumpy about that stupid bear that had to be that close to me, I gathered some big rocks to sleep next to in-case Smoky the bear wanted make another appearance. I wasn’t the only one to do this, some other guys did the same. It took me a couple hours of tossing and turning to finally get a peace of mind to sleep a solid 4-6 hours! Stupid bear.
Day 1 pictures:
Day 2 post coming soon!