Yes, hiking the first trail this morning was a definite high in more ways than one. Not only were we more than a mile high, but hiking through the balsam fir forest first thing in the morning before the heat of the day descended was breathtaking in itself. There were four other people hiking right behind us, but we managed to get there and have about five minutes to ourselves before the others arrived. But, when we got back to Newfound Gap, eight miles later (the rest area with tremendous views between Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and Cherokee, North Carolina), it was like walking into an amusement park. Culture shock, really. We did pass a number of hikers heading toward the Bunion on the way back down, but the crowds in the parking lot were mind numbing. This is just a sample.
From Newfound Gap, we descended to Gatlinburg and headed to the Porter’s Creek Trail access. Seemingly in the middle of nowhere (down a long bumpy gravel road), there were still plenty of people there when we arrived. The trail was fine but the hike a little disappointing. There was one precarious trail crossing across the eponymous creek that messed with my equilibrium. It had a weird angled handhold that threw me off, but Frank managed it by not holding on. I, unfortunately, have a fear of heights that usually translates to spaghetti legs. I wasn’t aware of this fear until I had to descend Diamond Head on Oahu as a teen. Still haven’t conquered it, but I just power through it. Feets don’t fail me now and all that.
Tomorrow: Warrior’s Path near Kingsport. And here’s a couple of close ups of trail life: