My husband and I visit the Smoky Mountains once or twice a year. We stay in the Gatlinburg area which sits at the base of the Smoky Mountains. My husband and I married young, age 19 and 20. We honeymooned in Gatlinburg TN, affordable. We are at a 44 year elevation and still climbing.
My husband and I went on a hike in the Smokey Mountains. We chose to challenge ourselves. The hike we chose was listed as medium difficulty.
Before we set out on the hike we read about the trail.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (U.S. National Park Service)
Hiking. Charlies Bunion is a popular day hike destination. The 8 mile jaunt to Charlies Bunion, located on the Appalachian Trail, is a popular day hike. Caution is advised in the backcountry. Elevation gain 1,886.
We drove up the mountain to start our hike. We found the trail head, looked down it and decided to go ahead and take the hike. 8 miles to our destination and back.
What a beautiful trail I thought as I walked along taking in the scenery. A view of the mountains to the right, awesome. I was on it, the Appalachian Trail amazing! I was enjoying nature. My husband...not so much. I love the mountains, woods, hiking. My husband is not as thrilled about it. Once we started walking he made some discouraging comments. I tried to lift his spirits, look at this, do you see that? His comment “When can we go back, there’s nothing here.” We started to walk over rocks, small inclines and tree roots. The high mountain condensation and a little rain begin to show itself. Big decision should we put our ponchos on now? We did. We returned to our challenge. We never expected so much treachery.
Later we talked about turning around and decided to continue on to the bluff. There was a turn off somewhere, we figured it had to be close, we’d make it soon. Tired and gasping for our lives (it felt like) we finally made it to the turn-off. A split in the trail, Mt LeConte or off trail to the left to Charles Bunion overlook. Off trail, backcountry. We turned left and started to hike. Cold, tired, no real trail.... we kept on going through bramble, nature’s beauty and an uneven not so much trail.
Somehow the further we hiked on the trail the closer my husband and I became, together and lost. We united in our misery, it felt like strength to me. Are we there yet? This was our main conversation. The fog was so thick we had limited visibility. The mountains are known for fog, the smoky mountains. We were thick in the smoke.
At some point we stopped asking about getting there and just wanted to be there.
The mountain was so smoky with fog we couldn’t see where we were or if we passed the bluff. We stopped and thought if we passed the bluff we’d be off the cliff. Steep fall without a chute.
Caution, how far do we go? Is this it? We saw no signs. I clinch my teeth.
We went back and forth finally deciding to call it success, where ever we were. Together we began our decent on solid ground. 4 miles down. A steep decent. Rocks, earth and trees.
Are we there yet? Not so much oohing and awing. Eyes to the ground, the earth.
I picked up a stone, it caught my eye. I still have that stone and I always will. A remembrance of our backcountry hiatus. The stone represents hard work, fun times, the mountain, the fog and its fine cool mist. I hold this stone and remember two people struggling on a high mountaintop. Safe together. I hold my mountain stone and remember the beauty of the mountain. We made it.