It was a blustery September morning as the line of depression era sedans, convertibles, and jalopies began the two hour trip up the winding road to Newfound Gap. Horns blared with “oogas” as the procession past through the various tunnels. Soon a huge crowd had gathered at the Gap and the excitement grew to a crescendo as an open car arrived transporting a slight man with a fedora tilted on his head and a cigarette holder clenched between his smiling teeth. The man was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and the occasion was the September 2, 1940 dedication of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park “for the permanent enjoyment of the people.” Today, the park displayed it’s treasures to the fullest, and we enjoyed it indeed.
Chuckles had contacted a shuttle driver last night who agreed to drive six of us the 15 miles to Newfound Gap for $5 apiece. After enjoying a wonderful breakfast at the rustic Crockett’s Breakfast Camp, we packed our bags and headed up the mountain to return to the trail. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and we knew we were in for a special day.
After a good day of rest, my legs were feeling exceptionally strong, and I literally bounded up the inevitable climb from the gap to the summit of Mt Kephart. The air was cool and clear, and it seemed like I could see mountains forever through the trees. In less than an hour and a half, I had covered the four miles to my first major destination, Charlie’s Bunion.
Charlie’s Bunion, which you can see in the featured picture for this post, holds a special memory for me. On a day like today, 39 years and 9 months ago, I sat on that very spot and dreamed of the day that I could return there on an A.T. thru-hike. Once again, I am living that dream.
For the remainder of the day, I walked along in awe of the beauty surrounding me in this park. It was difficult to take three steps without stopping to attempt to capture the moment in a picture. I took over 50 pictures today, and while it is impossible to upload them all, here are some of my favorites.
After 15.1 miles of hiking, I arrived at the Tri-Corner Knob Shelter, my destination for the day. The camp was buzzing with excitement over the day’s experience, and it was the unanimous opinion of the other hikers that today was by far the best day we have had since the beginning of our journey on the A.T. After 77 years, I’m so thankful that GSMNP still remains “for the permanent enjoyment of the people.”