Sunday, March 3, 2013

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The AT doesn't waste much time, once it leaves Georgia, getting into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A little over 70 miles of the trail, running right along the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, are in the very heart of the park.

The park's website, Great Smoky Mountains National Park , claims that they welcome between 8 and 10 million visitors each year, making it the most visited national park of them all. It's easy to believe. The park is beautiful, relatively accessible (from lots of directions), and it has things to offer visitors of all ages: hiking (duh), biking, fishing, scenic views, and the chance to see unique species of birds and animals. Update: Clingmans Dome, part of the Smokies, is the highest peak on the entire AT.

Located nearby, just south of the national park, are rivers that offer internationally-renown whitewater for rafting and competitive kayak and canoe runs. My son and I went on a rafting trip here with a Scout troop a few years back and we had a blast.

People have asked me if I'm planning to get mail drops along the trail, and the  answer is "yes, but I'm not too hopeful about it." There are only about a dozen places along the whole trail where a post office is very close to where I'll be hiking; otherwise, I'd have to walk or hitchhike off the trail to get to the post office. That plus the issue of having to time it to arrive when the post office is open makes picking up packages a little bit problematic. Still, I am going to try to use those dozen spots for resupply.

The first mail drop I'm planning isn't a post office, though. It's the Nantahala Outdoor Center, which isn't really a single place, but a complex of sites on the rivers in and around the Smokies that offer a TON of outdoor activities for families and groups of all types. This was the company that took us rafting with the Scouts. They have an outfitter store in Wesser, NC, that accepts packages for thru-hikers. Their business hours are a little better than your average post office, so I do feel pretty hopeful about getting this first package!

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