last weekend we headed up to the smokies to hike up a mountain. a couple friends of ours have some standing reservations at the mt leconte lodge and invited us way back on new years eve to accompany them. unfortunately, as the time approached, they found that they were unable to go due to injuries and such so they asked that we go in order to keep them from losing their reservation for next year. and so we went.

our trip actually started after work last tuesday when we made our way to north ga to see some friends and work from the office for a day and a half. it’s a six hour drive that took us seven and a half because of an accident just below atlanta. i kid you not… i was PARKED on the interstate for an hour and ten minutes. seriously… no movement whatsoever. you can guess how happy i was that night and the next morning after getting into our friends’ house so late, staying up even later to visit, not being able to sleep at all, and then getting up ridiculously early for the commute to the office. most of the office showed up on wednesday to see us so we had a good time visiting with the coworkers and, more importantly, i got to eat at la parrilla!

thursday we worked a half day at the office and then headed to pigeon forge to meet up with our friends who weren’t able to make the hike. we spent the evening hanging out with them and then parted ways. they had told us that the trail we were taking was only going to take about two hours so we took our time getting around friday. i slept in a bit, we had some breakfast, and got checked out of the hotel. at the last minute, we realized that we would be parking our car on the side of the road over night so we decided to call a coworker who lives in the area and took our computers to his house for safekeeping. we slowly made our way back to the trail-head for alum cave bluffs and got started on our hike after 14:00.

this is at the beginning of the trail. it was lightly raining but we were ready to go.


we crossed over many a lovely creek on the bottom half of the trail.


and i thoroughly enjoyed playing with cobalt’s macro mode. my dearly departed sx1is didn’t have a macro mode and close up pix were nigh impossible.


upsk!rt pic on a fungus.


i haven’t quite figured out the slow shutter mode yet. generally i like to shoot waterfalls/cascades with a slow shutter in order to soften the water.


hubby on one of the “bridges” that we were crossing.


i have a thing for colorful fungus pix.


this is 1.4 miles into the trail. i think they call it the arch or something like that. it’s a little cave-like gig with a steep and winding staircase carved into it.


there’s hubby demonstrating the steep and winding staircase.


couple pic on a “bridge”.


long before i was dead tired and sorely blistered. i appreciate how he framed my head with mountain laurel flowers.


we’ve done a lot of hiking over the years but this is the first time i’ve ever seen mickey mouse on a trail. we saw dozens of mice and shrews. they were mostly too fast for pix but this guy felt like he was hiding pretty darned well so he stayed still.


hubby was very insistent that i get a pic of the “window rock”. in case you’re not seeing what i mean, just lower right of center is a big hole in the moutain that you can see right through. while i heart cobalt, she has fairly lousy zoom.


hubby hiking way ahead of me in order to clear spider webs (nothing to do with me being a super-slowpoke).


more colorful fungus.


apparently they had a surplus of the “bridges” and decided to make a staircase out of them.


minnie mouse.


they don’t call them the smokies for nothing.


lovely little arbor in the trail towards the top of the trail. it was a good omen that the pain was almost over!


i don’t know what our friends were talking about but if it takes them two hours to hike this trail… it took us just over three and a half hours. while i fully realize that i’m out of shape, they are more than twice my age and seem to have aches and injuries every time we see them. honestly, i think they meant that it takes them two hours after the halfway point. that i would believe. because past that halfway point was the most difficult hiking i’ve ever done. it was super steep hiking over slippery rocks. remember when you were in grade school and you tried walking up the slides? you’d get a running start and easily make it halfway up the slide and then you’d struggle to climb up the rest of the way. you’d make it two steps up and slide back three. yeh, that’s how some parts of this trail felt. there were a couple miles where you had to hold onto cables bolted into the side of the mountain to keep from plunging to certain death. anyhow, about twenty minutes before we reached the top (although i didn’t know at the time how close we were) i was done. my legs were shaky and we’d been pushing through without any breaks and my heels were killing me from the giant blisters that had formed. i just wanted to sit and rest but hubby kept pushing me because it was getting late and it was already an overcast day. fortunately, we were closer to the top than i thought and i was relieved to find cabins within our view a short time later. as we turned onto the path that pointed to the office, they started ringing the dinner triangle. spectacular timing on our part! we headed for the dining hall and were greeted by a guy who asked if we wanted to check in or eat first. i quickly told him that i heard the dinner bell and i was eating! i was relieved to find a very edible meal waiting for me – cream of broccoli soup, cornbread, beef roast, mashed potatoes, green beans, and stewed apples. it was all delicious and was accompanied by wine which very much helped with the aches and pains that were setting in from the hike. desert was a big chocolate chip cookie and hot cocoa. i truly felt so much better after eating. we were told that the balcony off the front of the dining hall was the only place where there was cell phone reception so we headed out there after eating so that i could text everyone i know.


after we had filled our tummies and texted our family and friends, josh checked us in and gave us the grand tour, including a key to the bath house which had REAL FLUSHING TOILETS! yes, i was absolutely ecstatic to find that i wouldn’t have to suffer in an outhouse. i consider myself to be a trooper when it comes to roughing it but my skin just crawls at the mere thought of an outhouse. if you’re female and have had to use one, you know why.


more playing with cobalt’s macro mode. not bad methinks!


we stayed up late in the office talking with other hikers and hanging out. josh played some guitar.


ranger jenn told some fun stories.


after a night of tossing and turning because it was just too dang warm (don’t worry, hubby slept like a log), i woke up around 06:30. we got up, got dressed, and took some pix while waiting for the breakfast triangle to ring. this was our cabin. there really wasn’t much more to it. the front door was about three foot in front of where we were standing. there was a little table with a kerosene lantern and a bucket for getting hot water to “bathe”.


in case you thought i was exaggerating, it really was that small.


hubby and i doing the old grandma and grandpa pose on the front porch rockers.


this was in front of the dining hall. at this size, you can’t read that the elevation is 6593.


after a filling breakfast of eggs, canadian bacon, pancakes, grits, biscuits, apple butter, and more hot cocoa, we grabbed all of our stuff and headed out. we started by taking the short .2mi path up to the summit. we followed a deer around but i never could get a good vantage point on her.


this was from the summit.


there were very pretty flower bushes all over the top of the mountain. sadly they were infested with bees. i cannot tell you how hard it was for me to walk between those bushes with buzzing all around me. i’m pretty sure i held my breath the entire time.


panoramic view.


i told you i like brightly colored fungus.


and then we started our descent… back down that treacherous trail. a large chunk of the trail looked like this. very narrow, wicked dropoff, slippery rocks, and “holy crap” hand-holds.


this section was actually the most intimidating. as you can see, the flat part is just big enough for my feet.


this is what it looks like just beyond my feet. it wasn’t quite as bad going back down because it wasn’t raining and my legs weren’t wobbly but it was a still a high pucker-factor spot.


have i, by any chance, mentioned that i like brightly colored fungus?


at least my raincoat keeps this from being a totally unflattering pic.




this was us relieved to be back down to the halfway point, alum cave bluffs. the trail is so much easier from this point down. i don’t think very many people hike past this point unless they are spending the night on top of the mountain.




back down to the base of the trail and ever so happy to know that our car is only twenty yards away. more importantly, my feet were overjoyed by the fact that my flip-flops were only twenty yards away!


the hike down only took two and a half hours compared to the three and a half to get up. going up, i rubbed serious blisters on my heels, coming down i twisted my ankle slightly and rubbed serious blisters on my toes. look at my pinky toe… it looks like i’ve got a sixth toe growing! clearly, i’m going to need to find some better hiking boots before we do the grand canyon.


overall, it was a fun new experience and i was glad that we did it. it made me realize how much i miss hiking. we used to go pretty regularly but there’s just not much hiking in florida. it also made me feel confident that i can do the grand canyon, though it’ll be twice as long. i won’t be setting any speed records, but i can definitely do it. anyhow, we left the mountains, stopped back by our co-worker’s house to pick up our computers and meet his wife (i love meeting new people when i’m filthy and stinky!), and started our trip back south. we stopped for the night in wedowee to spend a little time with the in-laws and then made it home sunday evening. it was a whirlwind trip with a lot of driving but it was a worthwhile adventure.