Weekday hiking in the GSMNP…

Injury and weather have been occupying our thoughts as our Alaska backpack looms ever closer. An inflammation of my piriformis, my 3rd such over the last 10 years has physically derailed me. Summer’s heat, humidity and rain has mentally derailed us. We desperately needed to get back on track!

Several weeks ago John cleared his work calendar and we marked yesterday as The Day to get out on the trail again. We have been following the weather and all looked good, until of course, the last few days. The best laid plans….

We had not prepared the night before so getting out the door and shuttling the dog to daycare was a scramble. The windshield wipers were on low but we convinced ourselves that the moisture was the result of rush hour spray from a still wet interstate. Off the interstate and out of heavy traffic, we had to come to terms with the fact that it was indeed raining and very humid. The weatherman had forecasted late afternoon showers, he was about 7 hours off. At least it was cool.

Quick, say the word and I will bail! Any word….

Stalling for time and hoping the rain, which continued to increase in intensity, would slow down, we stopped at a somewhat new local coffee shop in Townsend. Yay for a little town with NO Starbucks. Neither of us wanted coffee but jumped at the offering of bacon biscuits, perfect to bury our rainy day blues.

We sat in the car shielded from the rain while we ate a dry biscuit and watched a layer of humid moisture obscure our visibility. A day curled up reading a good book sounded good but it didn’t happen. Each of us was waiting on the other the call the hike but neither said a word so off we went.

The trailhead was a couple of miles east of Cades Cove on Laurel Creek Road. Several cars were ahead of us at the parking lot. We “suited up” with shed able long sleeves, rain jacket, poncho and knee length gaitors. We commented about being over geared but when one is standing in the parking lot shivering from cold and rain, it is hard to remember how quickly a little uphill warms the body.

I don’t think there is much out there more beautiful than the Great Smoky Mountains when it is bathed in wet, lush summer foliage. As we headed up Lead Cove Trail, we were treated to a forest filled with blooming rhododendron. The blooms are showy white balls of individual flowers that begin with with pink centers and gradually turn completely white as the blooms unfolds. Spectacular!

We had a 1600′ climb on a 3 mile stretch of trail. The trail was rough with exposed roots, rocks and mud, all rendered slick from the rain. I could tell my weeks of reduced activity had taken a toll on my fitness. John said that after the first mile, my whine factor shot up to a 5 (it would go up to a 7 on the way down with nats and other bugs buzzing my eyes and ears). Luckily the climb seemed to have no effects on my piriformis so I climbed on.

Park Ranger and 4 horses had been up to Russell Field shelter on the AT to clean up.

The rain dissipated as we continued to climb. From what we could see above the tree tops, the sky was mostly overcast with small patches of brightness but not quite sunshine. We had long since shed our rain gear and long sleeve shirts. The higher we climbed the cooler the temperature, but we were steamy in the thick vegetation!

Took us longer than usual to reach the Lead Cove-Bote Mountain trail junction, a short 1.8 miles from the trailhead. We continued up on Bote Mountain to the Anthony Creek Trailhead junction. I think this stretch of trail was the longest 1.2 miles I have ever hiked, or so it seemed at this time. The same goes for the hike down that stretch, a wake up call to get off the injured list and get back to training for Alaska.

Wild azaleas were also in bloom.
The beautiful galax plant with lingering blooms.

Overall the hike took too long, 3.45 hours (including lunch and stops). But I was happy that my injury did not give me much trouble. 24 hours later I am still doing pretty good.

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