Up in the air with Friends of the Smokies

Pam and me - Smokies 100 completers
Pam and me – We Smokies 100

It’s hot down here in Asheville.

So it was not difficult to get a large group of Friends of the Smokies (FOTS) hikers to come on a Charlies Bunion to Kephart Prong Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park yesterday.

Sarah Weeks, the development director of FOTS from Tennessee, joined us on the hike. Marielle DeJong, the new associate, was on her first FOTS hike. Even Brent McDaniel, the marketing director, showed up at the trailhead, on his way to check out donation boxes.

FOTS provides some very nice amenities.

On this hike, Anna Zanetti, Director of the NC office of FOTS, organized a bus that shuttled us up to Newfound Gap, the start of the hike. The first four miles to Charlies Bunion were crowded by trail standards. Hikers were going up to the Bunion, some were coming down and some weren’t going to go too far.  But we were all outside, so that’s OK.

Kephart Prong Shelter
Kephart Prong Shelter

The bulk of our group had a leisurely lunch before we felt the first drops of rain. We carefully walked on a narrow, rocky trail around to meet the Appalachian Trail again. We had lost almost all the other hikers.

Then the skies opened up-rain, thunder and even some lightning. By then we were on the Dry Sluice Trail.

Yes, that’s the name of the trail, even though the trail was a riverbed and not dry at all. Well, when it rains, you do what hikers do, get wet. And I did. Though I quickly put on my packcover, almost everything got soaked.

Another right on Grassy Branch Trail. By then the rain had stopped and the sun came out again. Grassy Branch Trail was an old logging road. One spot even has Norway Spruce, left over from when logging companies had the run of the Smokies. For more details of this hike, look at my hiking guide, Hiking North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

Purple-fringed orchids
Purple-fringed orchids

The trail had blooming rhododendrons, mountain laurel and flame azaleas. This was the day to be out there. And some sharp eyes spotted purple-fringed orchids.

We finally all converged at Kephart Prong Shelter.

Some hikers had waited for quite a while, others just arrived and we left. I usually wait about five minutes for everyone to catch their breath. But this was an unusual circumstance. I’m so glad that everyone had waited – Thank you.

We had been spread out and all the patient FOTS staff members had walked in the back for most of the hike. Now I was the sweep down Kephart Prong Trail and the last one off the trail.

On this hike, I finished my Smokies 100 miles for 2016. Yippee! Looking forward to the celebration with Superintendent Cassius Cash at the end of the year.

2 thoughts on “Up in the air with Friends of the Smokies

  1. Congratulations Danny for finishing your 100 miles and thanks for a wonderful hike. What’s a little rain, thunder, and lightning on such an awesome trail? Lol

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