Last weekend we had the amazing opportunity to go backpack in the Smoky Mountains! We headed up to Tennessee via Knoxville and then drove into the North Carolina Part of the park to tackle the Mount Sterling loop. 17 miles round trip in three days with 4,000 feet worth of an elevation change. It was a challenge, but we loved it!

Part 1 can be found here with our 80 second recap! Part 3 is coming soon!

Woke up this morning at about 9:30. I was surprised. We had gone to bed early and I was sure that we were going to naturally wake up with the sun. Nope.

We ate breakfast and I read the Bible while Jared packed a little bit. Then we picked up camp. We stopped right outside the campground to refill our water bottles then headed up the trail.

I didn’t eat much yesterday and my legs were already dead lead before we even started. We made our way up and at first we had small areas where it was flat or downhill. But as we started getting into the steeper climbs, I was losing it. I asked Jared to stop and explained to him (tearfully) that I had no energy. My legs felt like mile 22 of a marathon and my head felt like it did before I passed out in Italy. He is so patient and understood. He had me drink some of my electrolytes and then had me set the (slow) pace in front so that he could make sure I didn’t pass out. We slowly made our way up. With breaks. Every once in a while a beautiful part of the creek was a perfect reason to stop and take a break. Sometimes, it was just necessary.

Biggest fear of mine was passing out and falling off the narrow ridge we were climbing. Second fear was being so tired that I took a misstep on a lose rock and then fell down the mountain. As we climbed the creek got further and further away and it got more and more quiet. We stopped about an hour in and had a granola bar and some water. Then we just kept going.

We crisscrossed our way over the creek two or three times. Then it was just up on the switch backs. Those were the hardest part. We had already been going uphill most of the day. We knew we were close to the top of the ridge where we could have lunch but it was still a climb. Finally, after 4 miles and 2,000 ft in elevation, we made it! The top of the ridge! We were soaked in sweat but we took our packs off and had lunch. Dehydrated food never tasted so good.

We still had two miles to go and another 700 feet to go. And we had a decline in the middle as we went from one mountain ridge to another. Even though I had an almost breakdown as we started out again (I was su frustrated with my body) we made good time and I caught my second wind as we made the climb. It was intense. But slowly we made our way up. We knew we were getting close when we started seeing lots of people coming down. Finally, we made it to the summit!

The group of campers that left two hours before us had just gotten there, 20 minutes before us we found out. I guess I wasn’t so slow as I thought huh?

We set up camp and then went to the top of the observation tower. It was windy but what a view! We took video and pictures and admired the surrounding mountains.

We made dinner and then we hung out in the Nubé and chatted for a while. We were waiting for the sunset and boy! What a view! The clouds were building over the next mountain to the south of us and other clouds were drifting over between us and the sun, making the most amazing colors! Several people from the other group joined us on the (rickety) tower to watch the sun go behind the neighboring mountains.

We returned to the Nubé and took turns reading Around the World in 80 days. We are in the thick of the plot and I love it! If I didn’t have to sleep...

Today was a brilliant day. Even though I was pushed beyond my fatigue, tearfully sometimes, the climb was epic. Jared and I discussed a couple of things to learn for next time, but I am loving the adventure we are having. The views in itself, are glorious. The company, even better.
— From Maddie's Journal, 8.13.16

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