March 14-17: The Great Smoky Mountains Reflection and Advice for Hikers

For Christmas, Jaret (my partner) bought us a nice, little trip for spring break. He booked an Airbnb in Sevierville, Tennessee. We both have never been to the Smokies before and we were determined to make the most out of this trip, making it as relaxing as possible before the last stretch of our senior year to graduation. Spring break was a great opportunity for us to spend time together away from all the stress.

I learn something from every trip and this weekend, I’ve found myself growing closer to my partner. From early morning breakfasts to late night conversations, I’ve never been more confident in my daily decision to be the best person I can be for my person and our intertwined futures.

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People often ask me how we work so well together. Sure it’s one thing to be horoscopically compatible, but one thing that we really like to focus on is making sure there aren’t any blurred lines or hidden messages that we’re keeping from each other. Any topic can lead to an open discussion; it could be about anything: politics, music, or the meaning of life. The more honest you are to yourself, the more honest you can be with your partner. Sure, we have a lot of common interests, which certainly helps, but it never gets boring.

This trip to the Smokies reaffirmed my trust and faith that Jaret is my life partner. During the Alum Cave Trail to Mt. Leconte hike, I lost most of my motivation to get to the top, but for every toll that the mountain took, Jaret gave back to me in spirit. Going up that mountain was a complete and utter metaphor. My breakdowns were necessary to learn that I could take one step further. Jaret never carried me, but on multiple occasions, he held my hand to get past the icy parts even if it meant we had to slow down just a little bit. I learned that I had to get up the mountain on my own terms, but I didn’t have to do it alone.

No one person has to go up their mountain alone, but if you have the ability to, nothing’s stopping you. Having a partner going up the mountain with you certainly helps. The question is: would you want someone to be with you every icy step of the way or someone who will dart up the trail without you? Commitment to the challenge is necessary, but the good thing is, you can always do it with someone you love.

You can check out our itinerary here:

  1. Day 1: Driving up to the Smokies
  2. Day 2: Hiking the Alum Cave Trail
  3. Day 3: Waterfall, river, and fried catfish!
  4. Day 4: Going home to St. Louis

Keep scrolling down for advice for hikers.

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Advice to hikers for Alum Cave Trail to Mt. Leconte:
There was still a serious amount of snow and ice on the trail. I highly recommend getting some crampons and hiking poles if you plan on climbing Mt. Leconte this time of year. We didn’t do this, but you should check in with the park rangers at the Visitors Center to make sure conditions are safe to ascend. We didn’t do that, but we really should have; you never know when the weather in the mountains will change on you because of altitude.

As always, make sure you’re snacking often. I recommend fruit snacks and granola bars, but since this is listed as “strenuous” hike by park rangers, bring fruits and possibly a stove to cook a couple MRE’s at the summit. I wish I had eaten more that day.

Again, I cannot stress this enough: do not wear normal tennis shoes to hike this trail, especially late winter/early spring because of mud, ice, and snow. The terrain changes so much in the time between your ascent and your descent. The poles are also a great help for the descent because five miles of hiking downward really hurts your knees and hips, and will prevent you from doing a nice hike the next day.

Give yourself a seven-hour time slot to do this out-and-back trail. That way, you can take more breaks while still making good pace.

Happy trails!

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