"The most visited park in the country?
Hiking in the Smokies
I'm back from three months in Europe. We hiked a great deal and it was all very different from the Southern Appalachians. But I realized how much I missed the Smokies when I went on a long hike yesterday. It's part of my attempt to finish the Smokies 900, all the trails in the Smokies. I'm getting there, I have about 125 miles to go.
Janet and I drove through Bryson City and on the Road to Nowhere - for the history, see Hiking the Carolina Mountains and the Shuckstack-Lakeshore Loop. The purpose was to hike Bear Creek Trail - 5.9 miles one way. But first we had to get to that trail. We walked through the tunnel, started on Lakeshore Trail and then a short distance on Forney Creek Trail. The Creek was running but the water level was low; you could really see the effect of our long-standing drought.
Finally after almost four miles, we started climbing Bear Creek Trail. We were walking the railroad grade up for 3,000 ft., a typical Smokies trail. Up and and down for 18.3 miles on a beautiful late-summer day.
We saw no one on the trail - nobody. In this most visited park in the nation, the trail was empty. We expected to see some folks hiking in for the weekend at campsite #74, less than four miles, but no one. When we got back to the car at 6:30 P.M., there were several cars on the road and one in the parking area. However, when we passed Swain County High School, there were heaps of cars in the parking lot.