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!

See our other days of the trip on Part 1 and Part 2!

Last night slept pretty terribly. It was super cold and neither of us were able to really rest.

We woke up around 6 AM and packed up camp before going up the observation tower and watching the sunrise. It was pretty spectacular. Definitely the highlight of the trip!

After finishing breakfast we headed down the mountain. It took us about three hours but we were able to do it in pretty good time. This side of the trail is much less maintained than the others and we were thankful we were going DOWN rather than up.

We finally made it to the car and then drove off to the park headquarters just south of Gatlinburg. We picked up a pin for commemorating our hike. Then we got information on a good place to take a shower in Pigeon Forge before we ate lunch at Paula Dean’s restaurant down the street.

I was a little disappointed in the amount of tourist traps along the road in both towns. I was expecting a little more of a historical town than a boardwalk along the highway.

Lunch was good. We then found a geocache quick. It began to pour and we both agreed we were pretty tired and would rather just go to the airport than try to do anything else.

We sat at the Starbucks down the way from our gate at the airport before boarding our flight. It was bittersweet seeing the mountains go off in the distance, but I’m so thankful for the time we had together on the trails.
— From Maddie's Journal, 8.14.16

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