Sunday was 9.5 miles of glorious early-Fall hiking. Better weather exists, but only just barely.
We (me and Kathryn, you know this by now) left Knoxville around 1 and headed up to Newfound Gap. It was a little hazy in the afternoon, but the mountains were still visible from Alcoa Highway. We went into the park through Wears Valley and Metcalf Bottoms, skipping a few miles of winding Little River Road to save time. Traffic wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. Sunday afternoons are usually way more congested. I guess the NFL keeps some people at home. Fine by me.
The Newfound Gap parking lot was pretty crowded. Lots of people were getting out, straddling the state line, taking photos, playing with their dogs, and not hiking. We started east on the Appalachian Trail and within 10 minutes it seemed like we were the only ones in the park. Millions of people visit the Smokies, but very few of them venture more than a quarter-mile away from their cars. That may not be completely true, but it feels like it is.