May 24, 2015

The Dargatz Family Heads South. . .High Times

In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, the little moments are often forgotten or avoided entirely. On this trip, relaxation was key so taking the time to eat together at the table, although relatively minuscule when compared to the mountain views, was a welcome sight and something much larger than any mountain we scaled the entire trip. It's all about the little things.

After our breakfast, we headed to the highest point in the Smokies: Clingman's Dome. Apparently, many others had the same idea as parking and space was at a premium. We did find a spot pretty close to the actual lot as we began the ascent. As we rose, the temperature dropped. . .and dropped. Luckily, the hoards of other visitors sheltered us from much of the winds that would us chilled us even more. 

After reaching the top, we enjoyed a much less strenuous descent as we retreated tot he car and headed to Newfound Gap for lunch. This scenic overlook included a variety of interesting sights. From grand landscapes to the North Carolina-Tennessee border, there was much to explore. We were especially intrigued by a segment of the famed Appalachian Trail that ran right through this place. However, all these sights had to wait as we instead paid attention to our parking lot neighbors. This six pack of young men in search of adventure certainly found it, but not in the way they expected. We ended up parking next to a large truck in need if a new water pump. As we enjoyed bag lunches, we eavesdropped on their predicament. A tow truck was needed to take them to the nearest city offering truck repairs. Of course, however, the tow truck would not be able to transport all of the gentlemen involved so these men, in their adventurous (and potentially impatient) spirit, came up with an alternative plan to avoid wasting any of their exploration time. While the owner of the truck and another waited for the tow and accompanied it back to town, the others collected water, supplies, and a basic map, and decided to hoof it back to town. I certainly hope they made it unscathed.

We finished up lunches just as the tow arrived. Knowing the excitement of our neighbors had passed, we decided to start our own adventure. With both Jillian and I thoroughly enjoying hiking and with Embry also budding into an outdoorswoman, we knew it was time to tackle the Appalachian Trail, or at least a small, small portion of it. The trail included a quick and rough incline, very tough to maneuver rocky sections, and some less than desirable foliage clearing, but we made it successfully. Embry, in her own stubborn and determined way, resisted almost all of our assistance and handled herself excellently in the treacherous terrain. Many passing hikers commented on her determination and persistence. 

When we wrapped up that section, we were just warmed up. We knew Embry would appreciate another "freefall" so we headed out to Laurel Falls and once again, endured a long and winding climb. Along the way, we ran into many camera shy salamanders, colorful wildflowers, and once again, many other visitors before finally reaching an absolutely spectacular waterfall.

While there was still some daylight left, we knew we had scaled many a mountain that day, so if we wanted any energy the next day, it was time to re-fuel.  So we headed back to Bryson City, North Carolina on the outskirts of the park and visited a few places we had noticed on our previous trip on the Great Smoky National Railroad. A pizza joint and a brewpub. In fact, if you ever head through Bryson City, I highly recommend Nantahala Brewing Company. While the beer selection was divine, I especially enjoyed. . . .

TRIP TAKEAWAY #7 - Bars in Bryson City are animal friendly.  People brought dogs into the bar. A pop and a pooch. Not a bad combination.

It was quite a high day. High elevation. High adventure. High crowds. Maybe tomorrow, would lead us to some "down" time. Only one way to find out.

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