Oh how I missed my mountains.
Yesterday morning I got up and left Knoxville at 6:15. The sun still a good 40 minutes below the horizon and fog hung over the foothills. I couldn’t see the mountains from Alcoa Highway as I headed south towards Townsend. Just a wall of cloud. But I knew they were there.
Three months is far too long to go without a trip to the Smokies, and I was incredibly glad to be headed back to the park. The Avett Brothers’ Mignonette (a truly great album) was playing and I was driving towards the sunrise as I headed into Wears Valley, east of Townsend. The quickest route, at least the shortest, to Newfound Gap Road and Chimney Tops goes through Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlingburg, but I have a strong and unwavering dislike for that trifecta and thus avoid them at all costs. A longer, scenic drive wins every time.
I made it to the trailhead just after 8:00 and started the hike to the top. I couldn’t help but smile. The trail is 2 miles to the top, gaining around 1400 feet along the way. It’s steep. The morning light in the woods wasn’t good enough to make me stop and take photos along the way. I decided to go for speed, seeing how fast I could make it up. It ended up taking about 50 minutes to arrive on top of the Chimneys. That’s with five or six stops to catch my breath and drink some water. And one to use the bathroom. Yeah, I said it.