The day after we completed Clingman’s Dome we took a rest day to walk around the tourist city Gatlinburg, get some backcountry permits, and veg out at the Sugarland Visitor Center. I checked out the park gift shop and got a good chuckle out if the description on the back of a Clingman’s Dome postcard. It said its height and the fact that it’s the highest point on the Appalachian Trail, and then it said it’s “a strenuous ½ mile walk from the parking lot”. I’m sure the drive is real tough too!
The ranger in the backcountry office suggested we hike out to Ramsey Cascade. It’s an 8 mile round-trip trail to the best waterfall in the most visited National Park in America, according to our backcountry friend, so decided to go with his suggestion on top of hiking the Appalachian Trail in the opposite direction from Newfound Gap to Charlie’s Bunion via Icewater Springs Shelter. To cover the miles we planned to do the cascades first then do the 2.7 miles to the shelter on Monday, make the 1.7 mile walk to Charlie’s Bunion on Tuesday morning, then hike on out to the van and kiss the Smokes goodbye.
After the vehicle traffic cleared on Sunday afternoon we left our leisure time behind at the visitor center to make camp for the evening at the Ramsey Cascade trailhead. The unpaved road to the trailhead was narrow but pretty with views of the lower falls and wooden bridges. The parking area at the end of the road was empty save for a woman coming off the trail taking selfies with her smartphone clipped at the end of a stick. It was hilarious because a.) she owns a selfie stick b.) is not 13 years old and c.) she had someone with her who I presume could take photos of her without using a 3 foot long pole.
After the evening’s entertainment Mike cooked us some Ramen Noodles with canned chicken with green beans on the side, complimented by brewskies, and served riverside on a TV tray table outside the back of our van. <3
After dinner we turned in to finish watching Inconvenient Truth with the always lovable Al Gore and then somehow became paranoid of all sounds again. Perhaps Al left us feeling too unsettled with the world. We heard things tapping the van, a couple steps outside, and I felt panic as I realized I hadn’t relieved myself for the night. A person can’t go to bed with a full bladder! I kept looking out the van windows into the pitch darkness to look for lights and movement, and as my eyes adjusted to the lack of light I realized that if someone was out there they may not have a light since their eyes will adjust just like mine did. I told Mike my thoughts and we decided I would pee outside the door with all lights on and Mike keeping watch. I made it back to the van without incident, of course, because no one is lurking around this trailhead that is 5 miles off the main road and that is rarely camped at. There are plenty of better places to find a murder victim. None of this rational thought stopped us from freaking out when a truck came down to turn around in the lot which is the only open area along the narrow road, or when Mike got up in the night to pee then ran back into the van screaming like a girl “something’s out there!! I heard foot steps in the woods!!”
I guess the entertainment didn’t end when the selfie stick rolled out.