This post is a continuation of Memorable Hike: Day 1.
Day 2: I woke up early the next day still feeling tired since I didn’t get a lot of sleep due to the stupid bear. I started the day by making grits and taking some ibuprofen. I was mildly sore in my calf and I took some the night before as well. After I ate, I packed up my stuff and started stretching because we were roughly 17 miles from Big Creek Ranger Station. We were going have to make a short ascend to Mt. Guyot which is the 2nd highest mountain in the Smokies. Actually, you don’t really summit Guyot; the AT runs next to Guyot. There is no cairn stone or sign to mark the true summit. You can’t see anything up there in the summer months due to trees and vegetation that grows at that elevation. After we reach the point where we’re suppose to be parallel from Guyot, the elevation profile would remain steady until we reach Old Black Mountain. There is a high elevation meadow that is really awesome. At the time of my visit, the meadow was thick with a good view of North Carolina and Mt. Sterling Ridge to the east. From Old Black Mountain, the AT goes on a steep descend which is where my knee pain came back. This long downhill to Inadu Knob, Cosby Knob and Low Gap really took a toll on my knee.
The pain was escalating on every step I took going down, and my hiking partners just kept going faster as I slowed down. When I reach Cosby Knob I was in some bad pain and I made it to the shelter were I planned to eat lunch, but the shelter was closed due to bear which motivated me to keep on trekking. I made it to Low Gap where my hiking partners were resting. We discussed my pain level and I had the option to descend 2 miles on Low Gap trail to Big Creek and take a fire road back to the car; this fire road was flat with 600 feet of elevation loss over 5 miles. I told my partner I wanted to finish this. At the time of this hike, I had never been to Mt. Cammerer. So we climbed Low Gap to Sunup Knob and finally made it to Mt. Cammerer trail. That climb took me a while because that downhill hurt my knee so bad that it was killing me every step of the way whether I was going up or down. After what seemed like forever, I made it to Mt. Cammerer Trail where my partners were waiting on me while talking to someone. Mt. Cammerer was .6 miles one way from this point and the man said there is no view. Cloud and fog has already engulfed the fire tower and you will not be able to see anything.
I was frustrated because I decided to finish this trip the hard way, so I could be rewarded by this view. From were we was resting, we had 5.9 miles of long downhill to the car. I ate half a protein bar and chugged some water and continued downhill. I was in pain on every single step. I maxed out on ibuprofen and just tried keep my mind off the pain by saying I was almost there. I reached a sign and thought I was finally done only to find out I had 1 more mile to go, only then to find out I had 2 more miles to go to the car. Let me tell you something folks, that final 2 miles was the hardest! I was so frustrated because I thought 2 miles was short and I should have already arrived to the car. It was messing with my mind that I would never make it, but I had to keep going to get off this mountain and into a hot bath with booze. I even sat down for a minute trying to recollect my thoughts and motivations to get off this trail. I must have sat down for 5 minutes drinking water and thinking about the end. I finally got up and about 15 minutes after that break I arrived to the ranger station.
I dropped to my knee when I arrived to the car in sheer exhaustion and joy! I finally completed the entire 33 miles in about 18 some hours of walking time. It was the longest I had ever done and it still remains my personal feat to this day. My partners and I rode on to Newport to eat a local Mexican restaurant and the meal was fantastic. We talked about the scenery, the pain, the bear, and other things related. I could barely walk and when I made it home, I fell into a hot bath then I must have slept for 10-15 minutes. I slept hard that night. Three days later I would visit my orthopedic doctor and have an MRI on my knee and leg. The doctor said I would need surgery to fix the pain, I held off on the surgery until December when I was on winter break. This trip didn’t cause me to have surgery, it just uncovered a weakness in my leg and knee that I never noticed. I would do this trip again, except I would like to do the entire 70 miles of AT in the Smokies. I would only do it if I can do some hard trip(s) leading up to it to get my ligaments trail ready.
The last two pictures are from the high country meadow near Old Black Mountain. The picture of the shelter is one of my hiking partner. Thanks for reading!