Saturday K2 woke me at 6:30am determined to get an early lift off from Tri-Corner Knob shelter. We had a quick breakfast of coffee (of course) and oatmeal plus grits plus peanut butter. Then stuffed our gear in our packs, cinched up, clipped in, and trekked outta there at about quarter til eight o’clock. One of our best starts yet! Here’s what the morning looked like:
We started fairly high in the Smokies at an elevation of 5,895′. Then the trail skirted around Mount Guyot, the second highest mountain in the Smokies, taking us up to 6,302′ near the top of Guyot, which stands at 6,621′ (2,018m).
After Guyot the trail trended downhill for seven miles. The bitter cold of the past couple days relinquished its grip. Now a wet mist persisted – not cold enough to snow, not wet enough to rain – enough to keep everything damp. We did get a bit of sleet, but generally the weather cooperated. The melting snow slowly slumped off the fir trees. The snowy footprints in the trail turned to slippery slush.
The trail rose again to skirt Mt Cammerer. I love climbing uphill yet I tend to pace myself throughout each hike – especially these longer ones. Usually K2 and I hike very close together. Today, this last day in the Smoky Mountains, we chose not to take a 1.2 mile round trip to a lookout tower at the summit of Cammerer. Instead we would hike 15.9 miles today from Tri-Corner Knob shelter to Chestnut Branch Trail to our rental car parked at the ranger station. We would leave the AT today. As the trail came up out of Low Gap, K2 went ahead. He sprinted up the 704′ of elevation gain at Cammerer – the last uphill section before the long descent out of the Great Smokies.
We reconnected as we journeyed down Cammerer. Eventually the slush turned to mud then to rocky dirt. I removed my trail-given Yaktrax.
Chestnut Branch trail followed and crossed a rushing creek where trillium and other tiny flowers bloomed.
In the final stretch we put up our poles and walked hand-in-hand for the first time in four days. Once we reached the car the rain began.
Nothing like eating after hiking – we yelped for a nearby restaurant and landed on The Woodshed on Cosby Highway in Newport, Tennessee. We ordered too much food and brought a doggie bag to the mini fridge at our hotel. In another couple hours we ate second dinner. Hiker hunger is real, y’all!