On our first trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, we picked up a booklet called Hike the Smokies for Families. Basically, the goal is for the entire family to hike 50 miles together. Once you have completed your first 10 miles, you get a sticker in your booklet, then at 25 miles you get a pin. Another sticker gets added at 40 miles and then the final pin at 50. Since our kids are all so high energy and we all enjoy getting outside, we thought this would be the perfect challenge for us.
We completed our first hike in the park on March 9, and since then we have hiked a total of 32.4 miles. We originally thought we would have the entire summer to complete the mileage, but since Rob will be working for the park service come June, we will have to complete the final 17.6 miles within the next month.
We are trying to get our miles in without overdoing it so we are doing a mixture of short and long trails and are trying to split up hiking days. Yesterday was a beautiful day for a drive, but neither Rob or I were up for a long hike, so we went to Clingmans Dome instead, which is the highest point in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There is a steep half-mile trail that leads up to spectacular views from the top.
At the top, we ran into some Appalachian Trail thru-hikers, since the trail crosses right by the dome. They were already 200 miles into their 2200 mile journey and I found myself wanting to jump on the trail with them. Hiking the Appalachian Trail is on our list, but it will not happen for several years. We need time to plan and train and the kids need to be big enough to carry their own gear. If all goes as planned, Rob will celebrate his 50th birthday somewhere along the trail, and a short four days later, I will celebrate my 40th.
The drive through the park was amazing. The trees are green, wildflowers are blooming. It is spectacular. The trees in the higher elevations are a little slower, but with the beautiful sunshine, I know they will not be too far behind. I am so grateful that we are living close enough to the park to be able to experience all of the changes and to have time to explore as much of it as possible. Normally it is into a park one day and out the next and you leave feeling as though there was still so much to see, but I think that when the time comes for us to leave the Smokies, we will feel pretty good about all we were able to see and do.