Melbourne, FL – August 19, 2014 – As the summer heat continues to engulf Florida, my thoughts start to wander to times when a trip to the North Carolina and Tennessee mountains would give the heat weary Floridian some time off from the blustering temperatures and extremely high humidity we experience here in Central Florida. Words like Mt. LaConte, Thunderhead, Clingmans Dome, Cades Cove and The Devils Courthouse and the Appalachian Trail come rushing to my conscious mind.
You see I grew up in Greenville and Simpsonville, South Carolina and just stones through from the Blue Ridge Mountains. Places I use to hike, rock climb and rappel in the mountains of northern Greenville County are now places where you can find million dollar homes. Boy what forty plus years will do to the real estate market.
During the 1960s and 1970s, I took many trips to the Great Smokey Mountain National Park. I have backpacked the Appalachian Trail (AT) across the park two times, once with my younger brother and once with my wife’s cousin. Both trips started at Davenport Gap and ended in Cades Cove. I even attempted, in 1974, to backpack the entire Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia with a group of Boy Scouts. Boy was this adventure a logistical nightmare when the weather in Maine did not cooperate. We were doomed for start. We should have started in the South and work our way north. Needless to say, we did not finish the trip.
But that being said, I have fond memories of all the other day hikes and overnight trips into the Great Smokey Mountains National Park and other North and South Carolina mountains and valleys I took.
During the summer, June through August, the Smokies can get hot with haze and humidity covering the mountain tops and valleys. It can get up to the 90s in the valleys with a temperature change of about 3-5 degrees per 1,000 feet gain in elevation. Big Creek campground has an elevation of 1,700 feet. The hike up to the AT is 2.1 mile climb changing elevation all the way. Davenport Gap on the AT has an elevation around 2,500 feet. So one might expect the temperature to vary between Big Creek campground and Davenport Gap to be about 5 degrees. With Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the Smokies on the AT, has an elevation of 6,644 feet above sea level, with a temperature difference of 20 degrees between the Dome and Davenport Gap depending on the time of the year. If you know anything about mountain weather is that it can change in an instant. When you go into the mountains you have to be prepared. I read a book back in the 1970 titled “Don’t Die on the Mountain” by Dan H Allen. You can buy a used copy on Amazon for a penny. It is a great read to learn how to be safe when hiking and climbing in the mountains.
Living here in Central Florida, I sure miss the short rides to Paris Mountain State Park in Greenville County South Carolina or to Hendersonville and Ashville, North Carolina for a day in mountains.
So if you are thinking about how to beat the heat here in sunny Florida, how about a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National park or any of the mountains of North and South Carolina. Here are some very good links I found on Smokey Mountain adventures.
Here is a very good video about a hike in the Smokies. It gives you a taste of what one can expect when backpacking in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Camron Adkins video
Published on Nov 18, 2012
Three day trek from Newfound Gap to Davenport Gap (Big Creek Ranger Station). Great Smoky Mountains National Park, September 21-23, 2012.
Until next time, be safe in the sun and have a great day in the great outdoors.