It was a very miserable weekend trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, or I would say it was very smoky indeed.
The weather was not co-operating at all, it was cloudy, misty and rainy. I drove from Atlanta and took me 3 hours to reach
the National Park entrance. I did take a wrong turn that cost me the extra 30 minutes scenic drive.
I visited both Oconaluftee and Sugarlands Visitor Centers. Park rangers there were not that helpful in giving me the information
that I needed. It seemed they were just the typical "government" employees.
Park Entrance sign is big, isn't it?.
Walker Camp Prong.
Yes, that is the name of this creek.
Driving up Newfound Gap Road.
I entered the Park from the south, and reached Newfound Gap (5028 feet). This supposed to be the one of the scenic spots
in the park, but this weekend, I saw nothing, and I mean it, nothing both mist and fog. The only view that I had was a
glimpse to the west on the way up Newfound Gap. I then drove to Sugarlands Visitor Center to see if I could get
some weather and trail condition information. The drive was not that bad except the fog was so dense no one
can see anything.
I then proceeded to the Alum Cave Trailhead, and started this miserable trip. I tried to keep positive by taking more pictures.
I did quite well in the first part of the trail, but the rain kept coming and I was just grinding up the wet and muddy trail.
Wow. Couldn't wait for the clouds to clear up.
Getting smoky in a few minutes
Talking about "Leave No Trace"..
Trees, we came in peace
Me and south of Smoky.
Seriously, this First Amendment sign bothered me very much in the National Park. Just enjoy !
Make up your mind, which state you wanna be in ?
This is my trip plan, follow the white lines.
I didn't any sugar on the land !.
OK, let's start the engine.
Poor fallen tree
1, 2, 3... you're too old.
Walker Camp Prong again
Nicely built foot bridge.
Genius' design, they put a layer of concrete on the wood for increased traction.
London bridge is falling down.
Staircase through Alum Rock.
More steps, be careful !
Look like we were doing serious climbing here.
Look what the heavy rain did to these poor little guys !
I reached Alum Rock and Alum Cave, very interesting rock formation indeed. I was not able to stay long as the rain was getting worse.
I then reached the Inspiration Point, and again, saw nothing because of the dense fog.
A lot of these cliff ledges to go through.
Ladders were built in a few dangerous sections.
This is the Alum Cave.
Me in the Alum Cave. Smelt heavy sulphur here.
More ladders to climb.
Recent landslide onto the ladder.
Water was actually running onto the trail, making it so wet and muddy.
Approaching Mt. Le Conte, it cleared up.
I captured this rare clear sky moment.
Heavy snow on the trail at Mount Le Conte
Mt Le Conte Lodge.
The following 2 hours was the longest hike that I'd ever been on without a view. Trail condition was, I would say, "horriable". The trail
was like a trench collecting all the rain, and long portion of the trail was still covered by snow and ice. Without any view, I finally
hauled myself up to Mount Le Conte. I visited the lodge and continued on to the shelter. I met a group of backpackers at the shelter.
The sky dramatically cleared up at about 9pm at night. We saw the classic big dipper and cassiopeia. Hoping the clear sky would stay longer,
dense fog came back in the early morning. I marched on the Boulevard Trail, however, it took me 2 hours to traverse downhill on a 2 mile strech.
It was ice on the trail, the slippery kind.
Does this sign help? Not really, can't read it anyway.
Mt Le Conte shelter at night.
Inside the shelter.
Since there was no sun, I figured to shoot this instead. My signature shadow.
My coke can alcohol stove in action.
Leaving Mount Le Conte Shelter in the morning. It turned foggy again.
There were the folks that I shared the shelter last night.
Really heavy snow on Boulevard Trail.
I had ..... 7.3 mile to go.
Man, it must be a few days ago.
Buddy, this is a frozen downhill trail. Lucky that I brought my Yaktrak !
That looks more like a trail.
OK, let's go "jump off" .... the bluff.
Once the Boulevard Trail met up the Appalachian, I was originally planning to go to Charles Bunion, but you knew the reason. What was the point ?
I took a stop at the Icewater Spring shelter, and had lunch. No one was there. In the following 90 minutes, it was all downhill. I took a few
pictures of the "white blazes" (AT trail marker), and that was it. I finally reached Newfound Gap, and I couldn't wait to hitchhike back to the car.
Recognize the White Blaze. Yes, it's the AT.
Icewater Spring Shelter.
Inside the shelter.
What does this sign say ?
Really solid rock wall.
Since there was no views to shoot, how's about this one.
Look at how thick the ice was before.
I saw something, was it ...?
Yes, that 's the end of my trip. I reached Newfound Gap.
The Appalachian Trail.
I was here.
AT in Great Smoky Mountains NP
At the Newfound Gap.
Here is it, Newfound Gap !
Still haven't decided which state you wanna be in ?
It's about time to hitchhike.
Well, I had to say trying to hitchhike in the rain after you just finished a
muddy trail. You have to clean up yourself a bit. It took me about 10 minutes
and 30 cars before a family van pulled up. Thanks for the Korean family from Atlanta.